John Tilton

University Professor Emeritus, Economics and Business


Though now retired, I have over the past 20 years divided my time between Colorado, where I held the Coulter Chair in Mineral Economics at the Colorado School of Mines, and Chile, where I was a professor in the Mining Engineering Department of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. My teaching and research interests have focused on economic and policy issues associated with the metal industries and markets. Recent research examines the role of mining in economic development, the environment and mining, material substitution, long-run trends in metal demand, the recycling of metals, the sources of productivity growth in mining, the competitiveness of mineral markets, and changes in comparative advantage in metal trade. My most recent books are: On Borrowed Time?, which examines the long-run challenge for modern civilization from the depletion of mineral resources, and Mineral Economics and Policy, where with Juan Ignacio Guzmán I explore the nature and behavior of mineral commodity markets.


  • PhD, Yale University, Economics,1965
  • MA, Yale University, Economics,1965
  • BS, Princeton University, Public and International Affairs, 1961

Research Areas

Areas of Specialization
  • Resource economics

  • Environmental economics

  • Applied microeconomics

Areas of Application
  • Depletion and the long-run availability of mineral commodities

  • Mining and economic development

  • Mineral commodity markets and prices

  • Mineral policy

Courses Taught

  • EBGN 510 – Natural Resource Economics

  • EBGN 535 – Economics of Metal Markets and Industries



Selected Recent Publications

“The Hubbert Peak Model and Assessing the Threat of Mineral Depletion,” Resources, Conservation & Recycling Vol. 139 (2018), pp. 280-286.

“Public Policy and Future Mineral Supplies,” Resources Policy Vol. 57 (2018), pp. 55-60, available at Co-authored with P.C.F. Crowson, John H. DeYoung Jr., Roderick G. Eggert, Magnus Ericsson, Juan Ignacio Guzmán, David Humphreys, Gustavo Lagos, Philip Maxwell, Marian Radetzki, Donald A. Singer, and Friedrich-W. Wellmer.

“Assessing the Market Power of Mineral Commodity Producers,” Mineral Economics Vol. 31 (2018), pp. 71-76, available at

“Global Climate Policy and the Polluter Pays Principle: A Different Perspective,” Resources Policy Vol. 50 (2016), pp. 117-118.

 “Cyclical and Secular Determinants of Productivity in the Copper, Aluminum, Iron Ore, and Coal Industries,” Mineral Economics Vol. 27 (2014), pp. 1-19

 “The Terms of Trade Debate and the Policy Implications for Primary Product Producers,” Resources Policy Vol. 38 (2013), pp. 196-203

Recent Books

Mineral Economics and Policy (Routledge for RFF Press, 2016). Co-authored with Juan Ignacio Guzmán.

On Borrowed Time: Assessing the Threat of Mineral Depletion (RFF Press, 2003).

Select Recent Presentations

Our Mental Models of Mineral Depletion and Why They Matter

The Future Availability of Mineral Commodities

Understanding Mineral Commodity Prices: Short-Run Fluctuations and Long-Run Trends

The Resource Curse: Causes and Consequences

Prebisch, Singer, and the Great Terms of Trade Debate

Nature of Material Substitution and the Implications for Metal Demand