Critical Minerals

Critical minerals are those that are essential to the economy and whose supply may be disrupted. Demand for many of these minerals has skyrocketed in recent years with the spread of high-tech devices.

Basics

Rare earth elements include 17 elements: Yttrium, Scandium, and the Lanthanide Series. Image Credit: Peggy Greb, Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Critical minerals are mineral resources that are essential to the economy and whose supply may be disrupted. The 'criticality' of a mineral changes with time as supply and society's needs shift. Table salt, for example, was once a critical mineral. Today, many critical minerals are metals that are central to high-tech sectors. They include the rare earth elements and other metals such as lithium, indium, tellurium, gallium, and platinum group elements.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

U.S. Capitol
(2017-04-10)
March 28, 2017 Industry and agency experts examined the United States’ increasing dependence on foreign sources of minerals on March 28. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to explore opportunities to rebuild and improve the supply of critical minerals in the United...
Excavator mining
(2017-04-10)
March 7, 2017 Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA-50) introduced the "Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security (METALS) Act" (H.R.1407) to ensure the U.S. has access to a sustainable and secure supply of materials to safeguard our national security on March 7. H.R.1407 would use one...
GAO Critical Materials Report Cover
(2016-10-05)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published the report, "Strengthened Federal Approach Needed to Help Identify and Mitigate Supply Risks for Critical Raw Materials" (GAO-16-699). The 79 page report identified that federal agencies are primarily focused on two areas of activity related to...
The 2016 Minerals Baby showing an infant with mineral use statistics around it
(2016-09-07)
The Minerals Education Coalition, of the Society for Mining and Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc. (SME), has released an updated 2016 version of their iconic "Minerals Baby" which depicts how many minerals a human will use throughout their lifetime. The 2016 updated estimates an increase of more...
Logo of the Society of Mining and Metallurgy Exploration, Inc. (SME)
(2016-09-01)
The Society for Mining and Metallurgy Exploration, Inc. (SME) has posted a new Technical Briefing Paper on the website regarding Federal Support for U.S. Mining Schools. In it they provide background on the issue, outline reasons investment in these programs is valuable to the American public and...
Cover of the Updated Version of the Geochemical Atlas of Alaska. Watercolor of a plane flying through Alaskan Mountain Ranges.
(2016-08-01)
The USGS has released an updated version of the Geochemical Map of Alaska. Additionally, the USGS Minerals Program tweeted an interview regarding the origins of this update - namely stable access to critical minerals. AGI's Critical Issues Program hosted a webinar on the "Science and Supply of...
IES Water Glyph
(2016-06-09)
May 24, 2016 The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $4 million to 4 research and development (R&D) projects at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Washington, the University of Utah, and the University of Wyoming. The 4...
Excavator mining
(2016-03-10)
February 11, 2016 The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published a report detailing how the Department of Defense (DOD) can better manage supply chain risks for critical rare earth minerals and materials (rare earths). Rare earths are essential for many weapon systems components and...
U.S. Capitol
(2016-02-02)
January 29, 2016 Last week the Senate began debate on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, the first major package of energy legislation considered in Congress since 2005. Introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill has received bipartisan support, passing out of committee with an...
Excavator mining
(2015-07-08)
June 8, 2015 Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) introduced The Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act of 2015 (H.R. 2687) on June 8 to support research on Energy Critical Elements (ECEs). The ECEs are a broad group of elements, including lithium, germanium, cobalt, and a dozen...

Case Studies & Factsheets

CI_Factsheet_2017_1_recycling_170331_thumb.JPG

Why Recycle? Recycling saves energy, money, materials, and natural resources, while reducing landfill use. It supplements the national supply of essential materials, reducing dependence on imports. As more minerals and materials become critically important - particularly in advanced technologies...

Sunset skyline of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, with the Inco Superstack seen across Ramsey Lake. Licensed under Creative Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons User P199

The Sudbury region of Ontario is rich in metallic ores. Underground mining operations at the 15 active mines of Inco Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd. in Sudbury currently produce 51,000 tons of ore per day [note: these figures are from the late 1990s], and five other mines within 500 km of Sudbury...

Research Database Publications

Cover of IS-17; Source: Colorado Geological Survey
1984, Colorado Geological Survey (CGS)
Colorado has huge resources of certain undeveloped strategic minerals that could supply significant percentages, if not all, of our national requirements for those commodities. Columbium, titanium, and aluminum mineral resources fall into this category. Their development however, is dependent on...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2015, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The Nation runs on energy. It is essential for the economic growth and national security of the United States that the Nation have an adequate, sustainable, environmentally acceptable and economically viable balanced supply of energy sources, (e.g. coal, petroleum, nuclear, natural gas, solar, wind...
Cover of USGS MCS 2012; Source: USGS
2012, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In 2011, the value of mineral production increased in the United States for the second consecutive year. Production increased modestly for most mineral commodities mined in the United States, and price increases, especially for precious metals, resulted in increases in the value of production....
Cover of USGS MCS 2000; Source: USGS
2000, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. economy expanded at a strong rate in 1999 and, consequently, the consumption of minerals and mineral–based products increased. The increasing growth in the economy pushed production and shipments of most U.S. metals manufacturers higher, as they began recovering from the declines in...
Cover of SP9-chp3; Source: Arizona Geological Survey
2014, Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS)
Deposits of rare earth elements (REE) are found in New Mexico, but they have not been important exploration targets in past years because demand has been met elsewhere. However, with the projected increase in demand and potential lack of available REE production from China, the New Mexico deposits...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: GSA
2013, Geological Society of America (GSA)
This position statement (1) summarizes the consensus view of The Geological Society of America on critical mineral resources; (2) advocates better understanding of their distribution, the potential for disruption of their supply, and the consequences of their use; (3) encourages...
Cover of USGS MCS 2005; Source: USGS
2005, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The mineral sector is a fundamental part of the U.S. economy; it contributes to the real gross domestic product (GDP) at several levels—basic (mining), intermediate (processing), and manufacturing. The estimated average growth rate for the real GDP of the United States for 2004 was 3.9%. The...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2014, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
It is crucial to reestablish a domestic rare earths minerals production industry to help secure the Nation’s clean energy future, reduce the U.S. vulnerability to material shortages related to national defense, and to maintain our global technical and economic competitiveness.
Cover of USGS MCS 2003; Source: USGS
2003, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Following the recession of 2001, restrained consumer spending, declines in domestic manufacturing and industrial output, and increased unemployment led to an expansion of only about 2% in the domestic economy during 2002. Significant production declines in the U.S. metals industry were registered...
Cover image of factsheet; Image credit: SME
2010, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
An overview of all of the minerals and metals used to make solar panels.