Depletion, Technology and Productivity Growth in Metallic Minerals Industry

  • Sam Mitra

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Owing to the diverse geological processes of genesis, metals occur in earth’s crust in a variety of minerals that form ore deposits across the globe. These deposits significantly differ in terms of their physical and chemical characteristics, and conditions of hosting. Productivity growth in any given metal industry is therefore governed by not only the advancements in technology, but also this unique variation in its natural input in course of cumulative extraction and depletion.

    Detailed analysis of the changes in process input intensities and sector productivity corresponding to a representative spectrum of geological transitions in copper ores reveals that the continuous and incremental technological developments had successfully offset the detrimental effects of depletion on sector productivity, often aided by the geological characteristics that changed to the miners’ advantage. However, the transition of ores below a threshold level of purity and then into the next prevalent chemical composition, was found to cause a steep rise in input intensities that would lead to a fall in productivity despite the introduction of a widely acclaimed innovative process of copper extraction.

    The study shows that the impacts of depletion are neither linear, nor uniform, and not always detrimental to productivity. It shows the usefulness of productivity studies in estimating the impacts depletion that may not proceed in strictly sequential manner in the short and medium term, as well as evaluating the benefits of technological change. Though the study is primarily based on copper industry, the findings hold relevance for other metal industries too.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorXiaoyi Mu (Supervisor) & David Humphreys (Supervisor)


    • Depletion
    • Metallic minerals
    • Productivity growth
    • Technology

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