Critical Minerals

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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

Bingham Copper Mine
(2018-04-03)
March 7, 2018 On March 7, the full House Committee on Natural Resources marked up the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (H.R.520), following a hearing to consider the bill last month. The Act, introduced by Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) on January 13, aims to support...
Bingham Copper Mine
(2018-01-04)
December 21, 2017 On Wednesday, December 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals. The order requires the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense, and Energy to submit a report that includes a strategy to...
Technology background
(2018-01-04)
December 12, 2017 The electronics and defense industries, among other key industries in the United States, rely upon the supply and availability of minerals – many of which are imported to the U.S. from other countries. Not only are these elements integral to the production of high-end electronics...
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...

Case Studies & Factsheets

Cover of AGI Factsheet 2017-001 - Recycling as a source of mineral commodities

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...

GOLI Online Courses

GOLI Course: Best Practices in Mineral Resource Estimation & Reporting. Image courtesy of Abani Samal
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Construction of a computerized model to estimate mineral resources is a common practice in mineral exploration projects and mining operations. Many times a technical report is done as per international reporting standards such as NI-43-101 or JORC to meet the requirement of certain stock...

GOLI Course: Tracking the Supply of Critical Materials; Image courtesy of Nedal Nassar.
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

No country in the world produces all of the mineral resources necessary for modern society. International trade plays a critical role in providing these raw materials, forming a global network of production, export, import, and use. This network must continuously adapt to national and...

Research Database Publications

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 U.S. Geological Survey_2015-3012; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Indium is rare in the Earth’s crust. The continental crust contains an average of about 50 parts per billion of indium, whereas the oceanic crust contains about 72 parts per billion, which is similar to meteoritic abundances and comparable to the crustal abundance of silver. Indium minerals are...
Cover of USGS MCS 2010; Source: USGS
2010, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The widespread effects of the struggling domestic economy were evident in the decreased performance of the U.S. minerals sector in 2009. Although minerals remained fundamental to the U.S. economy, contributing to the real gross domestic product (GDP) at several levels, including mining, processing...
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 of PUB115; Source: Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy
1991, Virginia Division of Geology and Mineral Resources (VA DGMR)
Tantalum- and niobium (columbium)-bearing mineral series which contain the major sources of tantalian and niobian metals in Virginia are tantalite or columbite, wodginite, and pyrochlore or microlite. Minerals that contain minor amounts of tantalum or niobium include euxenite or aeschynite,...
Cover of USGS MCS 2008; Source: USGS
2008, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Minerals are fundamental to the U.S. economy, contributing to the real gross domestic product (GDP) at several levels—mining, processing, and manufacturing finished products. The estimated growth rate for the real GDP of the United States was 2.1% and the nominal GDP was about $13.8 trillion in...
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 of c-118; Source: Utah Geological Survey
2014, Utah Geological Survey (UGS)
During 2013, Utah extractive resource industries produced energy and mineral commodities with an estimated gross value of $9.5 billion. On an inflation-adjusted basis, this is a $1 billion (12%) increase from 2012, and $1.2 billion (11%) less than the 2008 record high of $10.7 billion. Total energy...
Cover of USGS MCS 2002; Source: USGS
2002, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In March 2001, shrinking global markets, reduced consumer spending, and declines in domestic manufacturing and industrial output ended the longest economic expansion in U.S. history and pushed the Nation’s economy into its first recession in more than a decade (Berry and Pearlstein, 2001; U.S....
Cover of fs2015-3082; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The economic vitality and national security of the United States depend on the reliable supply of numerous nonfuel mineral commodities. Over the past six decades, many of these commodities have been sourced increasingly from outside the United States. The mix of commodities for which the United...