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: 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 of fs2015-3079; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Tantalum has a unique set of properties that make it useful in a number of diverse applications. The ability of the metal to store and release electrical energy makes it ideally suited for use in certain types of capacitors that are widely used in modern electronics. Approximately 60 percent of...
Cover of USGS MCS 2015; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In 2014, the estimated value of total nonfuel mineral production increased in the United States. The quantity of production increased for most mineral commodities mined in the United States. Prices increased for the majority of mineral commodities, but notable exceptions were the declines in prices...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3064 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The platinum-group elements (PGE) include platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium. These metals have similar physical and chemical properties and occur together in nature. The properties of PGE, such as high melting points, corrosion resistance, and catalytic qualities, make...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2015, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The availability of critical and strategic minerals and mineral materials are essential to industrialized nations like the United States and to the industrialization of developing nations for economic growth, national security, telecommunications, conventional and renewable energy technologies as...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2013, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
World industrialization, increased urbanization, and population growth are driving a sustained demand for minerals, metals and coal. Energy demand is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades – placing even more emphasis on supply, security and environmental impact issues.
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 2013; Source: USGS
2013, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In 2012, the estimated value of mineral production increased in the United States for the third consecutive year. Production and prices increased for most industrial mineral commodities mined in the United States, but production and prices for nearly all metals declined. Minerals remained...
Cover of "Do We Take Minerals for Granted?" ; Source: USGS
2013, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Did you know that the average automobile contains more than a ton of iron and steel, 240 lbs of aluminum, 50 lbs of carbon, 42 lbs of copper, 41 lbs of silicon, 22 lbs of zinc, and more than thirty other mineral commodities, including titanium, platinum, and gold? Do you know the cost of a pound of...
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 for USGS FS 2014-3122 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) analyzes mineral and metal supply chains to identify and describe major components of mineral and metal material flows from ore extraction, through intermediate forms, to a final product. Supply chain analyses may be used (1) to identify risks to the United States...