We’ve been known to be quite vocal around here on the subject of mineral reserves and resources. It is entirely true that the Earth’s endowment of, say, copper atoms is fixed to any useful estimate. That’s not what either mineral reserves nor resources are though, they are an entirely economic concept. Reserves are what we’ve identified and proven - yes, proven - we can extract using today’s technology, at today’s prices, and make a profit doing so. Resources are where we’re pretty sure but haven’t proven to a certain legal standard.
That being so it is quite obviously advancing technology - that being Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource - which creates mineral reserves and resources.
Even among those who accept the above truth there’s still one point underappreciated. Each step forward in that identification and extraction technology does not apply just to the one reservoir, it gives us an entire new Earth to explore once again:
After billion-barrel bonanza, BP goes global with seismic tech
Buoyed by the success of seismic imaging that found an extra billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is looking to take its latest technology to Angola and Brazil.
The software used in the Gulf, based on an algorithm created by Xukai Shen, a geophysicist straight out of Stanford University, led to BP discovering the crude in an area where it had long thought there was none to be found.
Industry experts said the scale of the discovery 8 km below BP's Thunder Horse field, announced last week, marked a major leap forward for deepwater exploration - a costly business known for its low success rate and high risk.
This new technology has not created that one billion barrels. It has done that plus given us the entirety of the planet at 8 km deep to go explore again. And that’s why technology produces so many new reserves, simply because each advance creates new planets to explore.
As an example concerning Simon. His bet with Ehrlich about the prices of commodities, one of which was copper. Over the period of the bet the SX-EW technology came into widespread use. Before this copper was produced from sulfide ores. With it they could be produced from copper oxide ores. The new technology meant we could explore the world again for copper oxide - no wonder the price fell.