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Embedded critical material flow: The case of niobium, the United States, and China

October 17, 2022

Niobium, often classified as critical, is typically embedded within steels essential for infrastructure and transportation. Most niobium-consuming countries are import-dependent on primary stage niobium, meaning traditional material flow analysis, which often excludes critical commodities embedded within products of large-scale industries, would miss important flows in the fabrication and manufacturing stages and underestimate niobium consumption. This study presents the first dynamic (2000–2020) niobium flow analysis for two niobium-consuming, net import-dependent countries: the United States (U.S.) and China. Results demonstrate that the U.S. is import-dependent throughout all stages of the niobium flow cycle including embedded and primary flows, whereas China is only import-dependent on primary niobium. Moreover, while most U.S. imports of niobium embedded within (semi-)finished goods are consumed domestically, most niobium-containing goods manufactured in China are exported, suggesting a supply disruption would affect their economies differently. This research demonstrates the necessity of embedded flows for criticality assessments and evaluating supply restrictions.

Publication Year 2023
Title Embedded critical material flow: The case of niobium, the United States, and China
DOI 10.1016/j.resconrec.2022.106698
Authors Dalton Miles Mccaffrey, Nedal T. Nassar, Simon M. Jowitt, Abraham J. Padilla, Laurence R. Bird
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Resources, Conservation & Recycling
Index ID 70238015
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Minerals Information Center