This paper captures some of the emerging consensus points that came out of the workshop “Mineral Resources in Life Cycle Impact Assessment: Mapping the path forward”, held at the Natural History Museum London on 14 October 2015: that current practices rely in many instances on obsolete data, often confuse resource depletion with impacts on resource availability, which can therefore provide inconsistent decision support and lead to misguided claims about environmental performance. Participants agreed it would be helpful to clarify which models estimate depletion and which estimate availability, so that results can be correctly reported in the most appropriate framework. Most participants suggested that resource availability will be more meaningfully addressed within a comprehensive Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment framework rather than limited to an environmental Life Cycle Assessment or Footprint.

Supporting publications from The United States Geological Survey and Leiden University are also freely available in the same Special Issue of the journal "resources":

Originally, Life Cycle Assessment used estimates of total crustal content to calculate how many years’ worth of natural resource existed. Later, practitioners began limiting existing stocks to those identified by the United States Geological Survey in its annual Commodity Summaries. (See, for example the EU's Product Environmental Footprint resources). Because of the nature of the equations used, LCA results are highly sensitive these differences in assumed total stock of abiotic resources. There is increasing international consensus that this aspect of Life Cycle Impact Assessment is well and truly broken and in need of an entire re-think.

More recently, several researchers have suggested that metal production has peaked, that resources will be depleted within decades and that declining ore grades can be used to forecast a time when mining will no longer be viable. This has underlined a lack of cross-disciplinary understanding of Mineral Economics.

In a new peer-reviewed publication, "Mineral resources in life cycle impact assessment—defining the path forward", we have come forward with probably the first globally coordinated mining industry contribution to the last twenty years of research into resource assessment in Life Cycle Thinking.

In the paper (which is freely available for download), exploration, geology, and economic experts from the global mining industry provide recommendations to ensure that future research into mineral resource assessment has a sound basis and that practitioners can utilize more appropriate tools for their work.

The paper's findings were recently debated at an International Workshop co-hosted by the Natural History Museum London (follow link for access to all presentations).