by Greg Klein | December 19, 2017
The first comprehensive update on the subject since 1973 takes a thorough look—nearly 900-pages thorough—at commodities vital to our neighbour’s, and ultimately the West’s, wellbeing. Just released by the U.S. Geological Survey, Critical Mineral Resources of the United States studies 23 commodities deemed crucial due to their possibility of supply disruption with serious consequences.
As both a former military commander and geologist, I know the very real National Security Risk of relying on foreign nations for what the military needs to keep our soldiers and our homeland safe.—Ryan Zinke,
U.S. Secretary of the Interior
“I commend the team of scientists at Usgs for the extensive work put into the report, but the findings are shocking,” commented Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, a former 23-year U.S. Navy SEAL officer. “The fact that previous administrations allowed the United States to become reliant on foreign nations, including our competitors and adversaries, for minerals that are so strategically important to our security and economy is deeply troubling. As both a former military commander and geologist, I know the very real national security risk of relying on foreign nations for what the military needs to keep our soldiers and our homeland safe.”
Most of the periodic table’s 92 naturally occurring elements have several significant uses, the USGS points out. A single computer chip requires well over half of the table. Industrialization, technological progress and rising standards of living have helped bring about an all-time high in minerals demand that’s expected to keep increasing, according to the report.
“For instance, in the 1970s rare earth elements had few uses outside of some specialty fields, and were produced mostly in the United States. Today, rare earth elements are integral to nearly all high-end electronics and are produced almost entirely in China.”
Developments in defence, medicine, clean energy and battery technology also contribute to the status of some minerals. In alphabetical order, the USGS deems the currently critical 23 as follows:
- fluorite or fluorspar
- platinum group elements
- rare earth elements
A January USGS report listed 20 minerals for which the U.S. imports 100% of its supply. Several of the above critical minerals were included: fluorspar, gallium, graphite, indium, manganese, niobium, rare earths, tantalum and vanadium.
The USGS compiled its critical minerals report “to provide decision-makers, researchers and economists with the tools they need to make informed choices about the mineral mix that fuels our society.”
- Download the USGS report.
- Read more about the USGS and critical minerals.
- Read Washington lobbyist Jeff Green’s remarks about U.S. mineral dependency.