THE strength of the United States in war, and its peacetime standard of living that is the envy of the world, are based on deposits of coal, iron and other minerals. Shortages that threatened serious repercussions on the battle front are a grim reminder of the tremendous extent to which modern armies depend on an ample supply of metals and mineral fuels. And the inconveniences resulting from fuel and gasoline rationing and from the wartime scarcity of radios, refrigerators, automobiles, communication facilities and mechanical household equipment emphasize our peacetime dependence on minerals. We have come to regard these machines and appliances -- all largely fabricated from minerals -- as essential to everyday life. The question of mineral resources, therefore, is fundamental to our economic and military security, and the maintenance of a sufficient supply, at reasonable costs, is a major consideration in the determination of national economic policies.
In the past the problem of mineral resources has not given the United States much concern. Imports were relatively small and readily available. The minerals that are basic to our industrial economy and most of the subsidiary ones have been obtained from domestic sources in ever-increasing quantities. This tremendous growth in mineral production has made possible our outstanding advance as an industrial nation. From 1880 to 1944 the value of the annual production of the mining industry increased 16-fold, from one-half billion to eight and one-half billion dollars. But the demands of this war overtaxed our capacity for production and forced us to increase imports greatly. We have at length perceived the inexorable truth that mineral deposits can be used up, and that they have in fact diminished in proportion to the speed with which we have developed our industrial strength. The extent to which our basic mineral position has been impaired by the tremendous depletion of the past 60 years is a highly significant question.
Opinion on the extent of this depletion differs widely. Some spokesmen maintain that the United States will soon be a "
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