Mineral resources, not synthetically producible in human time frames, are fixed in the earth. As each is mined, less supply remains, suggesting that cost and, thus, price must increase as production cumulates.
Yet, for virtually all minerals, the opposite seems to be true: As more is mined, more is discovered to be mined. Prices and costs do not inexorably rise. What was high-cost yesterday has become lower-cost, undercutting the perennial complaint that “the easy stuff has been found.” Overall, there seems to be little difference between minerals and general goods and services.
The mineral paradox is explainable if we recognize that human ingenuity in market settings is the ultimate resource, as Julian Simon stated. Entrepreneurial discovery is open-ended. Applied to minerals, resourceship can and does find supply that, before, no one knew existed—or that no one considered exploitable. But incentives and, thus, institutions can make all the difference between potential and plenty.