Which mineral commodities used in the United States need to be imported?

There are many mineral commodities for which the U.S. relies on imports for over 50% of its needs. This map shows the number of these commodities for which each country is a major source of U.S imports. Image Credit: USGS

For many mineral commodities, the United States uses more than it produces. The balance between imports, exports, and use depends on many factors. These factors include resource availability, global economic markets, social and technological changes, production costs, resource demands, and trade agreements[1]. Some minerals are more abundant or more cheaply produced in other countries. As a result, there are some mineral commodities that the U.S. does not produce domestically, making the country completely dependent on imports for these commodities. In 2016, the United States was completely dependent on imports for the following 20 mineral commodities[2]:

Arsenic, asbestos, cesium, fluorspar, gallium, natural graphite, indium, manganese, natural sheet mica, niobium, industrial quartz crystal, rare earths, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, thallium, thorium, vanadium, and yttrium

There are some mineral resources for which the U.S. is a net exporter. For these resources, the U.S. produces more than it consumes. In 2016, these included[2]:

Alumina, boron, clays, diatomite, helium, iron and steel scrap, iron ore, kyanite, molybdenum, industrial sand and gravel, selenium, soda ash, titanium dioxide pigment, wollastonite, and zeolites.

For other mineral commodities, U.S. production partly fulfils the country’s needs, and imports provide the rest. This balance is constantly changing as new resources are found, new technologies are developed, supplies and demands vary, economies grow or shrink, and political conditions shift. Because of this, the import, export, and use and movement of mineral commodities are continuously monitored by the National Minerals Information Center (NMIC) at the U.S. Geological Survey. Regularly updated datasets and information products are made publicly available, and summaries for all relevant mineral resources are published annually in the Mineral Commodity Summaries.


1 Policy – A Factor Shaping Minerals Supply and Demand U.S. Geological Survey
2 2017 USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries USGS National Minerals Information Center

Learn More:

  • USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries (1996-present) (Website), U.S. Geological Survey - National Minerals Information Center
    Annual mineral commodity summaries for all minerals tracked by the National Minerals Information Center since 1996.
  • Publications and Data Products (Website), U.S. Geological Survey - National Minerals Information Center
    Web portal for all publications and data products produced by the National Minerals Information Center