Note: Unless otherwise specified, all of the following websites are open-access and provide their data for free. Those websites that do require a payment for access have been nominated on the basis that (in my opinion) they provide exceptional service and value-for-money.
I am always on the look-out for new and interesting sites. Please send me an email if you know of a website that you think should be added to the list.
For a quick snapshot on the global mining industry in terms of available resources, supply and demand, you can't beat the annual Mineral Commodity Summary Report published by the US Geological Survey. It covers the entire suite of minerals with historical data going back to 1996. If you look up the individual commodities it is possible to find data going back to 1930s and earlier.
Another great source is the Report on Australian Commodities published each quarter by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). While it is Australian-focused, it covers most of the major commodities and discusses what's happening to world supply and demand. It also contains price forecasts for the forthcoming couple of years.
For free data try the Mineral Resource Data System produced by the US Geological Survey. While it is US-centric, it does have a reasonable (but slightly dated) dataset for major deposits elsewhere in the world.
Good data and maps on Australian mineral deposits can be found at GeoScience Australia.
For high-level reference data on the general location and (some) history of individual deposits go to MinDat.org.
Useful (but sometimes dated) Information on 1350+ significant mineral deposits around the world try Porter GeoConsultancy.
For more comprehensive and up-to-date data on a wider range of deposits you will need to go to a paid-access site. There are several that offer this service. In my opinion, the very best two are:
While they both expensive, they are both equally good at providing up-to-date detailed exploration, production and resource information on nearly every significant mineral deposit in the world. Either of them are "must-have" sites for the serious researcher.
For high-level reference data on mineralogy and individual deposits go to MinDat.org.
For more detailed mineralogical information on 3000+ deposits, including 70,000 high-resolution photos of the associated rock samples in trays, you can't beat AMIRA International's Data Metallogenica. Many of the reports also have cross-sections of the individual deposits. Although it requires paid access, the cost is modest and is well worth it.
Geology Surveys and Mine Departments
To find a link to the relevant Mines Departments in various countries, a good place to start to start is the GeologyNet website.
The obvious choice here is Google Earth.
However, if you are looking for the lats & longs of an obscure town or district, a brilliant site to go to is the Global Gazetteer database as maintained by RainingRain Genomics. It's especially helpful when you are faced with alternate spellings and multiple locations.
Mining Industry News
There is no shortage of high quality feeds for news on what's happening in the mining industry. However, the best ones require paid access.
In terms of free-sources, a good place to start is MineWeb.
For news on African (especially South African) mining industry try Miningmx.
Exploration Spend Data
By far the best and most comprehensive source of data on worldwide mineral exploration expenditures broken down by country, commodity and stage is the Corporate Exploration Strategies report published annually by the Metals Economics Group based out of Halifax Canada. Even though the reports are expensive to buy, it is a "must-have" report for those analysts serious about understanding the exploration industry. A free high-level overview of exploration trends can be downloaded from their website for free from this link.
For the best data on Australian exploration expenditures, go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
For the best data on Canadian exploration expenditures, go to the Natural Resources of Canada.
Tax & Investment Rules
A high level summary of the general tax and investment rules for 130+ countries can be found in the International Tax and Business Guides published by Deloitte. Unfortunately it doesn't cover mineral royalties.
In 2006 the Oil, Gas, Mining and Chemical Department of the World Bank Group published "Mining Royalties – A Global Study of Their Impact on Investors, Government, and Civil Society" written by James Otto et al. While some of the numbers have now superceded, in my view it is the definitive book on the application of royalties by Governments. A free copy of the 320 page book can be downloaded from the World Bank (link opens a PDF).
For information on the current prevailing royalty rates for specific commodities in specific jurisdiction you will need to go to each Mines or Tax Departments for each Country.
For a modest annual subscription cost, you can access over 100,000 pages of text on (mainly US-focused) Mining Laws and their applications from the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.
The "go-to" source for data on business risk and mineral potential for all of the key countries of the world is the Annual Survey of Mining Companies by the Fraser Institute. The survey has operating since 1997 and at last count covered 93 jurisdictions around the world. It is based on the responses (and biases) of ~800 companies exploring and operating in these countries. The survey provides detailed information on the ease of exploring and mining across 16 policy-related factors.
Best Environmental and Social Practice for Mining Projects
In my view the guide for best practice in designing and operating an environmentally responsible mining operation is the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) 2006 report titled "Good Practice Guidance for Mining and Biodiversity".
Another good source of information on responsible mining practices is a recent report published by the US-based activist group Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (eLAW) titled "Guidebook for Evaluating Mining Project EIAs". While I don't necessarily endorse all of their suggestions, it certainly provides a thorough and provocative discussion on the challenges involved in successfully developing a mining project in environmentally and culturally sensitive areas.
Data on how costs for open pit and underground mines in Canada and the US have changed on a monthly and annual basis over the last decade can be downloaded for free from InfoMine's MineCost Service. The only hassle is that they are 6-12 months out of date. To get the very latest information, and access their detailed cost models 150+ different sized mining and milling operations you will need to subscribe to their Mining Cost Service.
Over 5000 historical books on mining from the 1850s to the 1920s can be accessed from InternetArchive.org. Warning: some of the files are very large to download.
I suggest you change the key words to narrow down the search to your specific topic.
One book in particular that gives me much pleasure to read is JH Curle's book written in 1899 titled "The gold mines of the world containing concise and practical advice for investors: gathered from a personal inspection of the mines of the Transvaal, India, West Australia, Queensland, New Zealand, British Columbia and Australia". It discusses most of the main gold mining camps, their quality, costs and personalities involved. Curle also published an updated version of this in 1902.
By the way if, by chance, the PDF link appears to be broken there is a work around. The trick is to click on the link titled "All Files: HTTP" which will take you to a folder where the PDF sits.
The detailed personal accounts and lives of over 50 key mining people have been documented at the Bancroft Library. The profiles are limited to only those that graduated from the University of Berkeley California. Even so, there are some great stories there.