In this paper the global trends in the utilization of nonrenewable mass resources are empirically analyzed. Five results are presented and discussed. Firstly, it is shown that the pattern of global resource use in the twentieth century is characterized by increasing resource utilization rates in the second half and a stagnating resource use in the end of the century. Secondly, processes of dematerialization are revealed to have happened with regard to several resources. They can be explained in the context of the schumpeterian business cycle theory that considers them to be part of a broader process of transmaterialization. Thirdly, between 1960 and 1995 a global process of aggregate dematerialization of mass resources of at least 20 per cent could be confirmed. Fourthly, despite the effects of global dematerialization and of the application of new environmentally friendly technologies it cannot be excluded that the pattern of resource utilization in the twentieth century involved an increase in the level of environmental degradation. Finally, a sustainable transformation in the global resource use pattern can not be achieved through the driving forces of the free market. Instead, the sustainable utilization of nonrenewable mass resources requires further policy measures.