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
(2018-01-04)
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...
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...

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: 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...

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...

Research Database Publications

Cover for USGS FS 2014-3078 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Until recently, the rare-earth elements (REEs) were familiar to a relatively small number of people, such as chemists, geologists, specialized materials scientists, and engineers. In the 21st century, the REEs have gained visibility through many media outlets because of (1) the public has...
Cover of REE_No65; Source: Wyoming State Geological Survey
2013, Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS)
Rare earth elements (REE) comprise a group of metals with similar physical and chemical properties that encompasses the lanthanide series elements plus scandium and yttrium. Sixteen REE occur in nature, however, promethium (Pm) is highly unstable and does not occur naturally on earth. Diverse...
Cover of fs2016-3081; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Beryllium is a lightweight metallic element used in a wide variety of specialty and industrial applications. As a function of its unique chemical and physical properties, such as a high stiffness-to-weight ratio, resistance to temperature extremes, and high thermal conductivity, beryllium cannot be...
Cover of USGS MCS 2011; Source: USGS
2011, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In 2010, the value of mineral production increased in the United States, suggesting that the domestic nonfuel minerals industries, especially the metallic minerals industries, were beginning to feel the effects of recovery from the economic recession that began in December 2007 and lasted well into...
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 2004; Source: USGS
2004, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The average growth rate of real gross domestic product (GDP) from the third quarter of 2001 through the second quarter of 2003 in the United States was about 2.6%; GDP growth rate in the third quarter was about 8%, and it was estimated to be about 5% in the fourth quarter. Many other indicators...
Cover of FS2014-3101; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Rhenium is a silvery-white, metallic element with an extremely high melting point (3,180 degrees Celsius) and a heat-stable crystalline structure, making it exceptionally resistant to heat and wear. Since the late 1980s, rhenium has been critical for superalloys used in turbine blades and in...
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 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 ree_cocker_chp4.pdf; Source: Arizonal Geological Survey
2014, Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS)
Intensive lateritic weathering of bedrock under tropical or sub-tropical climatic conditions can form a variety of secondary, supergene-type deposits. These secondary deposits may range in composition from aluminous bauxites to iron and niobium, and include rare earth elements (REE). Over 250...