2017 Oct. Public Lecture — Global Trends in Mineral Commodity Supplies
- The U.S. is increasingly reliant on supply of mineral raw materials from other countries.
- Advanced technologies are increasingly making use of nearly the entire periodic table of the elements.
- Dynamic studies of critical and strategic mineral supply and demand can identify emerging potential supply risks.
- The USGS - National Minerals Information Center has assumed a leading role in mineral criticality studies.
Location Taken: Menlo Park, CA, US
[ Silence ]
[ Silence ]
Well, good evening.
And welcome to the United States
Geological Survey public lecture.
I’m Diane Garcia, and I work with
Science Information Services,
and I’m glad to see you all here tonight.
Before I start on introductions
of our speaker tonight,
I just want to remind you that we will
be having a November talk on
November 30th – the last Thursday of
the month and the last day of the month.
And it’s on sea otters –
confessions of a keystone carnivore.
There are fliers at the back table,
so please grab one so you can
have it as a reminder.
We’d love to see you here
November 30th to hear
Tim Tinker talk about sea otters.
But now what we’re really here for is
to hear a talk on global trends in mineral
commodity supplies, and it’s going to
be presented by Dr. Steven Fortier.
Steve joined the U.S. Geological
Survey in the role of director, National
Minerals Information Center, in 2014.
Steve came to USGS after 18 years
in the private sector in industrial
minerals mining and processing.
Steve holds Ph.D. and master’s
degrees in geological sciences
from Brown University
and a B.A. in geology and chemistry
from the University of
His research interests from the
early part of his career
involved fundamental studies of
mineral fluid interactions as well as
numerous collaborative studies
involving stable isotope applications.
He’s also an inventor or co-inventor
on four U.S. patents.
During his many years in industry,
his focus was on ground and
precipitated carbonates, kaolin,
fused silica, fused alumina,
and calcined bauxite.
His experience with the
commercial applications of
these materials includes paper,
performance minerals, ceramics,
abrasives, refractories, and oil field
minerals market segments.
So the United States Geological
Survey’s public lecture is pleased
to bring you a talk on
mineral commodity supplies.
And I’m going to ask, as always, that
you please hold your questions until
the end of the talk. But let’s give a nice,
warm applause and welcome to Steve.
[ Applause ]
- Thank you, Diane.
- Thank you.
- And I’d like to thank also the
organizers of the USGS public lecture
series for inviting me to come to speak.
It’s ways a pleasure for me to come and
talk about the work we do at the
National Minerals Information Center.
It’s really surprising to me that a
lot of people, even within USGS,
don’t really know much about the
National Minerals Information Center.
It has a reputation as being one of the
best-kept secrets in the U.S. government.
But I can assure you, we are
working diligently to change that.
I’m going to talk today
about global trends in
mineral commodity supplies
and why we think that’s important.
But I’m going to start by talking a little
bit about who the NMIC is and what
we do and why we think it’s important
to kind of set the stage for that.
So having spent most of my career,
at least the last couple decades,
in the private sector,
I still kind of think about
the work we do
in terms of a business model.
And one of the things I really like
about NMIC is it has a very good
business model in the sense that
we have a very well-defined mission.
We have a very
well-defined product portfolio.
A very well-defined customer base.
And I’ll talk a bit about each of those.
Our focus is operational, so we
really are a mineral information –
the mineral information function
in the U.S. government.
We are a production shop.
We work on monthly, quarterly,
and annual cycles, so our
product cycles are coming out
on a regular basis, much the way
you would in a – in a business.
And I can say, I think, without fear
of contradiction, that we consistently
deliver results. It’s one of the
things we pride ourselves most on.
Our products are
widely anticipated and
very well-received and
very widely used and cited.
So a bit about the mission
and some of the stakeholders
that depend on us to
deliver on that mission.
We have a very simple mission.
It’s to collect, analyze, and
publish information on domestic
and international supply and demand
for non-fuel mineral
and materials – essentially,
the U.S. economy
and national security.
And you will see, I think, as we go
through this, what that means in practice.
You know, we are the fact-based
mineral information function in
the U.S. government. We don’t
make policy. That’s for others.
So our objective is to provide
decision-makers in the U.S. government
the information they need to
ensure that the U.S. has
an adequate supply of minerals
and materials to meet our needs.
So for example, you see along
the bottom there some of the
other government entities and
organizations that depend on our work –
the U.S. Senate and House.
We get requests routinely from Congress
for briefings on a variety of issues
relating to mineral raw materials.
We’ve just been asked by the
U.S. Senate to provide a report by
spring of next year on the
USGS perspective on the status
for domestic mineral resource
assessments in the U.S.
and recommendations about what
we need to do going forward.
So this would be a major focus of
our work in the coming months.
But we’ve also worked directly for
other government entities such as
the Office of the President, OSTP –
we work directly with the
Department of Defense, particularly
the Defense Logistics Agency.
I’ll talk a bit more about
stuff we do for them.
And also the intelligence agencies
are consumers of our information,
as are the Departments of Energy,
State Commerce, and also we provide
information directly to organizations
such as the Federal Reserve Board.
So you might not think of all of those
agencies when you think about the
supply of mineral raw materials,
but in fact, mineral raw materials are
so fundamental to everything we do
and so fundamental to our standard of
living that all of these other agencies
have some component of their
own missions that require them to
understand the supply and demand
of mineral commodities and
whether there are risks to that supply
that could impact the
interests of the United States.
So the scope of our mission within
the center is really quite broad.
I think it’s as broad or broader
than any other comparable
organization in the world.
You see here in this periodic table
the commodities that we cover
in some way, shape, or form –
so either as an element or a
metal or a compound – mineral.
So pretty much the bulk of the periodic
table of commonly occurring elements.
We also have a very broad
and we are sometimes asked
why we have such a global scope.
I think some of the slides I will show
you will point out why that’s important.
We produce more than
700 publications annually
on the cycles that
I mentioned earlier.
And we’ve got a continuous record of
mineral information going back –
particularly for domestic production
in the United States – to the year 1900.
So we’ve been – the NMIC
or its agency predecessors
have been doing this
for more than 100 years.
Some of our publications will probably
be familiar, at least to some of you.
Probably the most prominent are the
Mineral Commodity Summaries.
This comes out every
year at the end of January.
It is the earliest look at the
prior year mineral industry production
and consumption statistics
It’s widely anticipated and cited.
Senator Murkowski and others
in the Senate routinely cite
our publications in their –
in their comments for the
record in the U.S. Congress.
But we also produce the
Mineral Yearbook series,
Mineral Industry Surveys,
and Metal and Nonmetallic
Mineral Industry Indexes,
as well as a number of
special publications, which is
increasingly a focus of our work.
The analysis piece of our
mission is becoming more and more
important as we –
as we move forward.
So what are some of the kind of
macroeconomic geopolitical trends
that are kind of driving our concern
about security of supply of mineral
commodities and, I think, amplifying
the importance of what we’re doing?
Well, in some ways, the kind of levels
of production that we’re seeing are
So here’s an example using iron ore.
This is from our historical data series
going back to the year 2000.
This is world production of iron ore here,
and you’ve got, in red, Australia.
And then you’ve got Brazil and China.
They’re big producers.
The U.S. is
basically flat here.
But the growth in the production
of iron ore over this period of time,
and the absolute volumes that are
being produced, are staggering.
There are more than 2 billion tons of iron
ore being produced annually every year.
I’m quite confident that that’s never
occurred in human history before.
So you see the very rapid
ramp-up of production capacity
in countries such as Brazil
and Australia to support that.
And so the growth has been very rapid.
It’s been dominated by China.
And we anticipate that there will be
continued demand growth for the
rest of the world for reasons I will
talk a bit more about in a minute.
But if you look at some of the numbers,
world production is up by 140%
over this period of time.
The production volumes in
Australia have grown
by a factor of 5,
Brazil by a factor of 2,
and in China by a factor of 4.
So, you know, it’s been basically
flat in Europe, Russia, elsewhere –
iron ore production.
So where’s all this iron ore going?
Well, it’s going pretty clearly
into the Chinese steel industry,
which leads to observations such as this,
which is that, in the years of the
21st century, from 2000 through ’14,
China has produced as much steel –
about 7 billion tons – as the U.S.
did in the entire 20th century.
So the scope of development
and consumption of mineral
commodities in China
is absolutely enormous.
And it has impacted the entire rest of
the world and the way we view our
supply situation and vulnerabilities
to potential disruption in supply.
It’s impossible to overstate
how important this is.
What happens in China impacts
the entire rest of the world.
And so it’s something we
need to pay a lot of attention to.
So what is – what is behind this?
Well, people normally think about this
in terms of population growth.
And it’s not just population.
I mean, China had a very large
population long before they became
the largest producer and consumer of a
whole range of mineral commodities.
It really is about middle-class
living standards and the migration of
people to middle-class living standards.
So there was a study that was published
some years ago now where they were
projecting that, between 2009 and 2030,
that as many as 3 billion additional
people globally could be moving into
what are considered broadly defined
as middle-class living standards.
So with middle-class
expectations about smartphones
and computers and
automobiles and jet aircraft.
And really that big run-up in
commodity consumption that you saw,
as an example, in the iron ore data
was driven by literally hundreds of
millions of Chinese citizens achieving
middle-class living standards.
And there are projections that this
is going to continue with the largest
increases being in the Asia Pacific
region – so India, Southeast Asia –
but also large increases in
East Africa and elsewhere.
Europe and North America and
these projections are basically flat
or declining in absolute numbers.
And with a shrinking global share.
So as these citizens from other
countries increase their living standards,
we can expect that they’re
going to require a lot more
to meet their needs.
This is why we think,
in the long term, that the kinds of
growth in demand –
although maybe not at the same rates –
are going to continue to be
very large as we go forward.
The other big thing that’s happening
is that technology is becoming
much more complex.
Right, so I think, you know,
most of us – or at least
some of us [laughter]
can remember when mobile
phones looked like this.
And they had far fewer elements
that were in them in those days.
have a lot more.
And this is true of
virtually all modern electronics.
So the applications in material science
are getting more and more specialized.
And so elements that we
never thought about using before,
we are now using in increasing
quantities to the point where we are –
you know, we are utilizing large
fractions of the periodic table.
Whereas, we weren’t
only 20 years ago or so.
And so this is one of the reasons I
always point to when people ask us,
well, why do you cover
all these commodities?
Well, we’re using them all.
And so we need to know
where we’re going to get them from
and whether we’re going to continue
to be able to get them. And that’s
becoming increasingly important.
So just as an example of the
kind of work that we do for
other government agencies that relates
to security of supply issues – so we
work very closely with the Defense
Logistics Agency-Strategic Materials.
So these are the folks in the
Department of Defense who are
responsible for maintaining
the national defense stockpile.
So they do scenario analysis
and evaluate various conflict scenarios
and what the impact would be
on the U.S. readiness to
be able to meet such challenges.
So we provide them very basic
foundational information that go into
their models about the latest
production capacities and production
volumes for various countries.
They put that into their models,
and they do their scenario analysis
to do the annual material plan and the
biannual report to Congress on their
recommendations for how we adjust
the national defense stockpile.
But part of their mandate from
Congress is in their definition
of strategic and critical materials
in the Stockpiling Act.
And it is – that part of it is that these
are materials that are not found or
produced in the United States in
sufficient quantities to meet such need.
So that leads us directly to a statistic
that we report every year in the
Mineral Commodity Summaries,
that is, the net import reliance,
which is basically you can think of
as the amount of material that we
import to meet our domestic
So if we don’t produce anything
domestically, whatever we consume
is being brought in from outside.
We are 100% net import reliant.
The number of those materials
has been increasing for decades.
I’m going to show you
some data on that in a minute.
But this is what this chart normally
looks like every year when it
comes out in the Mineral
This is difficult to read,
but many of you may have seen this.
But if the bar is fully across here,
we’re 100% net import reliant,
and it decreases
as we go down.
This is probably one of the most
famous graphs that USGS produces.
Senator Murkowski has used
this repeatedly in her comments
to her colleagues in Congress.
And so it’s something that people
look at very closely and
anticipate coming out every year.
So a couple of key publications
that [coughs] – excuse me.
A few guys on the
plane got me, I think.
A comparison of U.S. net import
reliance going back to 1954.
Excuse me. I’m going to have
to get a drink of water here.
Otherwise – if you just bear with me.
I’ve got some in here.
Okay. That’s better. So we did this
a couple years ago – 2015 –
published this report on U.S. net
import reliance going back to 1954.
And looking at 30-year slices
up to the year 2014.
And then a second one on the
assessment of critical minerals that
we did for the National Science
and Technology Council in 2016.
I’m going to talk about
each of these in some detail.
So here’s what the
of import sources
looked like in 1954.
And you can see the categories here.
Between seven and 12 commodities
coming from Canada, for which the U.S.
was greater than 50% net import reliant.
Significant numbers also coming
from Mexico, Brazil, South Africa.
So it was a fairly
modest dependence on
imports 60 years ago
compared to the present day.
And a lot of that material was
coming from the western hemisphere –
so Canada, Mexico, Brazil –
countries that share borders with us
and trade relationships in
the case of Canada and Mexico.
And so, you know, from a security
supply point of view, a fairly low risk.
If you fast-forward to 1984,
you can see that we’ve got many more
commodities that are now in the greater-
than-50% net import reliance category.
We’ve got an entirely new category –
13 to 18 commodities
coming from Canada –
still our largest supplier.
Increase in the number coming from
Mexico up to the seven to 12 range.
But then increasingly coming
from further abroad –
much longer supply chains.
What was then the USSR,
also China and Australia
as well as continued supply
from South Africa.
That was in the mid-’80s.
If you fast-forward to
this century in 2014,
the situation has deteriorated
markedly from this perspective.
So we are now – have another –
still another category of number of
commodities that we are greater
than 50% net import reliant for.
And this is kind of
a threshold for us.
So above that level, we are importing
more than half of what we are
consuming domestically relative to what
we’re able to produce domestically.
And that’s a kind of threshold
that we look at to – as a kind of
trigger for things that we should
start to be more concerned about.
But again, you know, considerable
numbers of materials coming from the
western hemisphere, but our dependency
is now very clearly very global.
dependent on China
to a degree much larger than
we’ve ever experienced before.
So to sum up the net import reliance
piece, this is a long-term secular trend
toward increasing reliance on other
countries for many of the mineral
commodities that are essential for
our economy and national security.
Supply chains are increasingly
global with long logistics channels.
Canada and Mexico remain
major suppliers. This is important.
This is a way of mitigating our risk.
The more materials we can get from
Canada and Mexico, who are
adjacent nations and with whom
we have longstanding trade
relationships, the better off we are.
The risks are
So we should, I think, be a little bit
careful about how we approach
our relationships with
our major trading partners.
China is a single-largest supplier of
many of these mineral commodities.
And if we think of – we look at what
happened in what we reported for 2016,
the U.S. is now greater than 50%
net import reliant for 50 mineral
commodities. This is more than half
of the commodities that we cover.
China is a major supplier
for more than half of those.
And we are 100% net import
reliant for 20 of those 50.
So, you know, I think, by any
objective measure, our reliance on
mineral commodities from
other countries has reached an
which is not in all cases
an indicator of risk,
but it certainly can be a risk.
And it’s one of the reasons why we
look very carefully at this and report this
information every year and make sure
that policymakers get this information.
Because it is –
it is a source of concern.
I think also – the last bullet here is,
for me, one of the most important.
It’s taken 60 years for us
to get to this position.
And to think that we will somehow,
magically, quickly or easily reverse this
is magic thinking. I mean, it won’t happen.
Mining just does not work that way.
And so, while we do need to, I think,
do more to encourage and enable
domestic mining, we should not
think that somehow it’s going to
very quickly change the situation.
So there need to be other strategies
that we adopt to help
mitigate some of our risks.
So this net import reliance
immediately leads to, you know,
consideration of some of the ways
that you can measure the risks
that are associated with sourcing
materials from one country and another.
And the way we do it is to use the
World Bank governance indicators –
the worldwide governance
indicators from World Bank.
There are a series of six different factors
by which they quantify the risks for
various countries – so rule of law,
political stability, et cetera.
They sum those all up, take the geometric
mean, and then they assign a score.
So the red colors are higher risk,
and the green are lower.
So you can see,
for large parts of the world,
there’s lots of yellow, orange, and red.
Much more than we would like.
We’d like things to be green like
Canada or Australia or the U.S.
But much of the rest of
the world is not that way.
And so – and in particular, you know,
central Africa, the Middle East,
are hotspots for governance issues
and have inherently higher risk
if you are depending on those countries
for significant quantities of materials.
You know, China is sort of
in the middle of that range.
But in any case, this is a metric
that we can use to weight our measures
of concentration of production
to make a supply risk metric.
And that’s what we’ve done
in some of our modeling.
To look at a specific example of what
this means, we can look at tantalum.
We had a tantalum task force a
couple years ago because of interest
from the U.S. Congress.
The House and Senate were both
asking questions about tantalum.
The Defense Logistics Agency was
being – had an inquiry from GAO – were
also on here. So GAO was interested.
DLA was interested.
And they were asking questions
about whether the U.S. government
was doing what it should or
was properly evaluating the risks
to the supply of tantalum
in the United States.
And so we looked in detail at this issue
and published three papers on this.
You might wonder, well,
why are we interested in tantalum.
If you have a smartphone,
you have some tantalum with you.
So tantalum is, as it turns out, from a
material science perspective, very good
at being a capacitor. And capacitors
are in every electronic circuit there is.
And, because tantalum is a
very good material for this,
you can make capacitors very small,
which is quite handy if you need to
have a very powerful
electronic device on your belt.
And so tantalum is in virtually every
electronic circuit that we use these days.
And if you look at the supply situation
for tantalum, going back to the year
2000 through 2014 in this publication,
what you see is that, at the turn of the
century, the bulk of production
was actually coming from
Australia and Brazil.
That’s the blue and red here.
But the production in Australia has
dropped off dramatically since then.
And since about 2006, supply had began
to be dominated by the Democratic
Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
So this is why, in part, the Senate
and the House were interested in this.
These are Dodd-Frank countries.
When I came to USGS,
I didn’t know that USGS
had anything to do
I thought it was about transparency
in banks, which it mostly is.
But there’s a section in Dodd-Frank –
next to the last one, I think, that says
transparency also applies to
mineral supply chains, particularly those
surrounding the Democratic Republic
of Congo, and that companies that are
sourcing materials from those areas
need to do due diligence on their
supply chain to ensure that they’re
not getting materials from
armed groups which are controlling
much of the production there.
But there’s been a big shift over
this period of time – and this is a period
of only 14 or 15 years – where we have
gone from supply being dominated
by Australia and Brazil to supply
being dominated by Democratic
Republic of Congo and other
African countries where there’s
governance risk, as we saw here.
And we’ve gone from industrial
mining and transparency of supply
chains to artisanal mining and a lack
of transparency in supply chains.
There’s a big change in the
production of this material
over a period of 15 years that
has led to significantly higher risk.
Tantalum is widely
regarded as a critical mineral.
The U.S. is 100%
net import reliant.
So these are the kinds of trends that
we need to be monitoring to understand
what’s happening in the global supply
in order to be able to evaluate
whether we are at risk to disruption
in the supply that could be
quite damaging to our
economy or national security.
So the second of these key
publications, as I mentioned before,
is a report that was written principally
by people in my center with some
help from the Department of Energy.
But it was written for the
National Science and
Technology Council of the –
for the Subcommittee on Critical
and Strategic Mineral Supply Chains.
And this basically describes
the development of a screening
methodology we developed to try
to evaluate the trends in our
mineral information data to
see if we can identify behavior
that suggests that we could
have a supply risk emerging.
So here’s the kind of output
that we get from this model.
So what you’re looking at here is a
periodic table that basically shows a
time series going back to the mid-’90s
through, at this point, 2013.
We’ve got 2014 data in here now.
We’re about to put in 2015 data.
But these are a criticality indicator,
which is a sum of a number of
which I will show you in a moment.
Not getting into great detail on that,
but you can see, as you go back in time
or you go forward in time,
for your favorite element –
so peaks and valleys in criticality
as measured by these metrics.
And so each of these trends is telling us
something about what was happening
with supply and demand for those
materials as we go forward in time.
So we believe that, by looking at these
trends and tracking these trends –
and we are ideally situated to
do this because we produce
this information every year as
part of our normal product cycle.
And so we can – we can set up
these models, and we can update them
every year and try to identify
emerging supply risks from this.
So we’ve done this
for virtually all of the materials
that we cover, or at
least most of them.
For some things, we’ve got
more information than others.
So for example, for copper,
we can do it at the mine level,
we can do it at the smelter level,
we can do it at their level of refining.
We can do ferroalloys, which is another
important set of commodities we cover.
And then we’ve got some that are –
that are basically just minerals –
potash, for example.
The rare earths are here.
But so we’re covering much of
the periodic table that we cover
as a normal course of our work
and using that information in this model
to try to anticipate problems
coming in the supply chain.
So here’s what this
looks like for rare earths –
the Early Warning Screening Tool
Application to rare earths.
There are three different
components to this.
One is the supply metric,
which is basically country concentration
times the governance risk.
So I showed you the
governance risk from the World Bank
world governance indicators.
Country concentration is simply
the fraction of production
that is in a particular country.
So if – for example, for rare earths,
China is producing 90%,
then the country concentration
is going to be very high.
And so then there’s a demand metric
that tracks sort of total
And then a price metric that
basically looks at price volatility.
And then we roll these all up
into a single metric for the
criticality indictor and take
the geometric mean of these
components, and that’s
the criticality indicator.
So if you look at this, what we
would say is the following.
Going all the way back to the mid-’90s
and up until, you know, the turn of the
century, this metric for supply risk
was steadily increasing for rare earths.
And so if we were watching –
if we were monitoring this commodity
using these metrics, that should have
been a signal to us that something
is changing pretty radically that we
need to be aware of and potentially
do something about.
All right, we didn’t.
And in 2010, we had a shock
from China where they –
after a territorial dispute
with Japan, threatened to
cut off the supply of rare earths.
Price spiked up.
Everybody got in a frenzy.
But, you know, you could see this
kind of behavior in these metrics for
the supply risk and for the price risk.
Actually, price was trending upward
well before the crisis actually occurred.
So we believe that, if we were
tracking these things, we can see
behavior that could indicate that we
have an emerging supply risk and that
these are useful metrics for us to track
in order to be able to anticipate those.
So here’s the – is the famous rare earths
story in terms of production volume.
So the U.S. used to
be the major producer.
This is Mountain Pass. We already
talked about that this afternoon.
And then the Chinese started to come in,
and so, in the mid-’80s – and now the
dominant producers of rare earth and
are very deliberately moving in the
direction of controlling
the entire supply chain.
As we had Mountain Pass coming
back in in the wake of the crisis in 2010,
I understand that they may be starting
up again, having been purchased.
But, you know, the mix of rare earths
at Mountain Pass is not ideal for the
kinds of things that we really need.
There is neodymium there,
but there’s very little dysprosium
or praseodymium, which are important
in magnets as well as neodymium.
So we really need additional rare earth
capacity to come online in order to
mitigate this very large production
concentration in China that is a
very clear risk to materials
that are absolutely essential
for a whole range of technologies
of commercial and
national security use.
So some other things
that we could look at.
So here’s the rare earth story.
And so this dip down, we just
pointed out – okay, this reflects
Mountain Pass and Lynas coming online.
If we extended this out with
additional data, we’d see this
start to trend back upward.
Although Lynas has basically
stabilized their operations in Australia
after some rough years economically.
They are being supported
actively by the Japanese,
who are determined to diversify
their supply of rare earths.
But the interesting thing about the Lynas
production is that it’s mined in Australia,
it goes to Malaysia to be
processed into concentrates.
But a lot of that material is actually
flowing into China to be made into
metals and other compounds.
There are other flows going to Japan,
but because China dominates the mining
and concentrate processes for rare earths,
they have also started to dominate metal
production and compound production.
They are increasingly
doing the research that’s required
to fuel advances in
And so it’s not enough to just be able
to mine and concentrate minerals.
You’ve got to think about
the rest of the supply chain.
And this is something that we
are increasingly focusing on
in the NMIC with our
U.S. government agency partners.
The defense agency – Department of
Defense and the intelligence agencies
are particularly interested in this,
and we are working with them on that.
So bismuth, which is commonly –
more and more commonly used as a –
as a replacement for lead, and this
ramp-up is clearly related to increased
production concentration in China.
Then cobalt, which is an element of
a great deal of interest for lithium-ion
batteries – it’s one of the most common
elements that are – that are needed
for cobalt and is likely to be –
come in much higher demand.
And most of it is coming from
Democratic Republic of Congo again,
which, as we said before, has clear
governance issues. So this is one
that we are watching very closely
and that we need
to keep an eye on.
And then, you know, you see
tantalum spiking up here as well.
So we are – we are going to be
updating these numbers every year
and using them to try to anticipate
and alert people in Congress and
other decision-makers to what
we perceive as being emerging risks
and hopefully get people
to actually do something.
My sense is that there is a greater
interest in that now because some of
these things are becoming obvious,
that they are increasingly –
that we increasingly are at risk
and that we need to have
mitigation strategies for how
we would cope with these risks.
So just to sum up, how are you
using global trends in mineral
commodity supply chains?
So we have been able to identify
trends and factors that affect the supply
and demand of mineral commodities
on a range of different time scales
with a range of different metrics.
Using time series analysis is a very
useful tool for screening over a broad
range of mineral commodities to
identify potential emerging supply risks.
That in itself does not
mean that they are critical.
Just because they pop up on our metrics
doesn’t mean they’re critical minerals.
We have – we are, I think –
been pretty clear with people,
don’t always accept it.
People want us to produce lists, okay?
They want a list of critical minerals.
In our view, lists have some utility,
but a list of critical minerals really
depends on who’s
asking the questions.
So if you’re Halliburton, you probably
think barite is a critical mineral.
If you’re General Electric, you probably
don’t think barite is very critical at all.
If you’re Department of Defense,
you’ve got a completely different list.
So we believe that, in order to really
understand whether something is
critical and represents a supply risk,
we need to do follow-up studies
to really understand the factors driving
the changes in the metrics we see.
So just having a high number
on a metric on some model
doesn’t mean that
it’s a supply risk.
So deep-dive studies as follow-ups are
really what allow us to determine that.
And, again, we are, I think,
uniquely suited to do that kind of work
because we have experts in
commodities and countries that
work in our center that
can really do that analysis.
We have that capacity
in a way that very few others do.
I say that for a
number of reasons.
One, our coverage is very broad in
terms of the commodities we cover.
Our scope is global.
And if you looked at those net import
reliance charts, it’s pretty clear why
we have to have a global scope.
We can do country-specific analysis,
so we can analyze things from the
perspective of the United States.
We can also analyze things
from the perspective of competitors
or potential adversaries.
Our data are authoritative.
They are widely viewed
as the gold standard globally.
Everywhere I go and speak,
people come up to me and say,
we use your data all the time.
And then they say, can we get it faster?
And actually, we’ve done something
to make that possible.
We are – we are getting data,
at least, quicker.
The publications that accompany them
are still slow, but that’s another matter.
It’s important to do this
in a dynamic way.
You know, mineral
criticality is not static.
And a lot of the studies that have been
done have been a snapshot in time,
but things change markedly over time.
We’re now in the third annual cycle
of doing this kind of analysis –
the screening analysis.
And in the second year of the cycle –
second year, we were able to
demonstrate that you can –
you can detect statistically significant
changes year on year using these metrics.
And what we’ve seen so far,
usually we can trace back to changes –
significant changes in production
in a commodity that is highly
concentrated in a particular country.
So if you have something that’s very
highly concentrated, and you get a
significant change in production,
it shows up very clearly in our metrics.
And so the sensitivity is
something that we have evaluated
and are starting to
get a better feel for.
But it is dynamic, and it needs to
be done on some kind of schedule.
The Europeans are
doing theirs every three years.
We are doing
ours every year.
We want to – we want to look at trends.
We don’t – I mean, people want lists,
and we’ll give them
lists if they want lists.
But we are really focused
on trends because we think
it tells us a lot more
than just making a list.
And our model seeks to
balance rigor – that is, we need to
have metrics that are actually
telling us something significant
that relates to some physical reality –
with the availability of data.
So there are lots of complicated metrics
that you can use to evaluate criticality,
and people have used them.
But if you can’t get data
for a broad range of materials,
they’re of limited utility.
And so it has to be rigorous
enough so that you’re getting a –
you’re getting a signal that’s real,
but you need to be able to get the data,
which means it needs
to be readily available.
And our data, which we
produce every year, are that.
And so we believe that that’s
another reason why we are
uniquely suited to
do this kind of work.
So the kinds of data we’re talking about
are the net import reliance statistics that
we – that we produce and that we are
now building in directly to this model.
Production country concentration –
so the kind of data I showed you
for tantalum for the shift from
Australia and Brazil to central Africa.
And then growth in world production,
price volatility, and then the
world governance indicators
that we get from World Bank.
But all these ones in green
we actually report every year.
We don’t – we don’t collect
all of that information ourselves.
Price volatility, for example, we
subscribe to publications that track price.
We consolidate that data.
We report averages on an annual basis.
But we do publish that
information all in one place.
It’s in the public domain, so it’s
available and transparent for people.
And we’ve used it to good effect,
I think, for our modeling efforts.
So with that, I will stop.
I think I’m about on time.
It’s time for questions, I think.
So thank you.
[ Applause ]
- Thanks, Steve.
I’m going to ask people to
please go to the microphones.
I think you all know the drill.
- I have two questions.
- Your mic’s not on.
- Do I have to do that?
- It should be on.
Can you check to
turn on the floor mics?
I have this one.
And it’s on.
- Pardon the frog in my throat here.
- Okay. First, China.
Do they just have more from a geological
perspective of lots of these minerals
than other places? Or are they doing
a better job of taking advantage of it?
And number two –
I’ll ask them both first.
The second one is, Afghanistan,
there was a big news story a
couple of years ago about
how they were going to be –
had this major concentration and,
you know, ability to produce.
They might be – not have the stability
to do it, but how does that – is that –
is there any update on that,
and does that factor into
that you’re talking about?
- Okay, so first China.
China is, for most – for many of the
materials we’re interested in, is the
largest producer as well as consumer.
China is obviously well-endowed
with mineral resources.
But so is the United States.
All right, I mean China has chosen
to develop their mineral resources.
In many cases, they’re doing it in
an unsustainable way, in our view.
And I think even their government
is recognizing this and
recognizing that it cannot continue.
So you see things, for example,
like iron ore.
The grade of iron ore
in China is, like, you know, 20%.
You can dig iron ore in the ground in
Brazil, it’s, you know, greater than 60.
And in Australia as well.
So they are increasingly purchasing
their iron ore from
Australia and Brazil.
So they’re not going to continue
mine iron ore that’s 20% grade.
It just doesn’t make sense. And it’s
true for a lot of other commodities.
But they have a very
rich mineral endowment.
They have chosen to exploit that.
The United States has a very
rich mineral endowment.
And we have, for the last 60 years,
moved away from exploiting our
domestic mineral resources.
And it’s resulted in very
large import dependence.
It doesn’t mean that
we can’t reverse it, but I –
as I said before,
it will not happen quickly.
Afghanistan has a lot of potential,
again, and is back in the news.
And in fact, we’ve been asked recently
by USAID to revisit Afghanistan.
A lot of the work was
done there that was sponsored
by the Department of Defense
some years ago now.
In recognition of the fact that,
you know, if there’s ever going to be
an end to the war in Afghanistan, they
need to have some kind of economy.
So we will be revisiting Afghanistan.
They have a lot of potential.
They have a lot
of issues, obviously.
It’s not enough to just
have mineral resources.
You’ve got to be able to mine them
and get them out of there,
and the infrastructure is very bad.
Security situation is very bad.
But presumably, that’s not
going to continue forever.
Although, if you go back to
Alexander the Great, you could
probably argue that it’s been that way
for quite a long time in Afghanistan.
But we will be
revisiting that and
hopefully getting some
funding from USAID to do that.
- Maybe a somewhat
similar question with it.
So we saw, over the last 60 years,
that the trend was for mineral supply
to move from Canada/Mexico
to the Soviet Union and China.
Are there any more general trends
that have driven that besides just
the fact that China’s aggressively
developing their resources?
- Well, I think, you know, for the U.S.,
I mean, we have, by far,
still the world’s largest economy,
or at least in nominal GDP.
And so our resource needs are large.
And since – particularly since the ’70s,
and I – you know, I don’t want
to make a political statement here,
but when we implemented
environmental laws in the United States,
and the rest of the world, you know,
didn’t necessarily follow along, it kind of
had the natural effect of pushing a lot
of that activity to other countries.
And so that clearly –
and I can’t quantify that,
but clearly, since the ’70s,
there’s been an acceleration
in our dependence on
mineral materials mined
from other countries that is clearly
part of this – part of this issue.
I mean, I think that, from my
perspective, that when we say
we’re not going to mine materials
domestically that we need,
we’re going to let
some other country do that.
And maybe some other country
that doesn’t have the same standards
we do and not doing it in a
sustainable way, that we are being
a little bit hypocritical, to be honest.
We’re going to – we don’t want
to get our hands dirty because,
you know, people don’t like mining.
So we’re going to
have it done over here.
I think we’re kidding ourselves that
we’re doing something good from the –
from the bigger picture.
I don’t think we are, really.
I think you could argue that it
would be better to do mining
in jurisdictions where they have the
rule of law, where they have
environmental regulations, where the
mining is being done sustainability.
And Canada and Australia,
in large measure, are doing that.
So it can be done. It could be
done here too. We’ve chosen not to.
- This may be a loaded question, but …
- A couple years ago, when I was
doing research on my book,
I spoke with Dudley Kingsnorth.
- And he said, at that time,
the estimate for the black market
was anywhere from 25 to 60%.
Since you obviously incorporate
economic data and rely on other
services for some pricing, how do you
factor the black market in …
- We do not.
- You don’t at all?
- We report – the rare earth numbers
we report from China are the official
numbers. We – you know, we know
that there’s illegal mining in China.
Dudley, I think his most recent
estimate is 40% of heavy rare earth
production is probably illegal.
It might be more than that.
But we can’t, as a government agency,
say that 40% of, you know, heavy
rare earth mining in China is illegal.
We just are not going to say that.
In much the same way that,
you know, people have asked me
why we have a number for reserves
in Canada for copper that is X.
And the answer is, because that’s
the Canadian government’s estimate
of what the reserves are
for copper in Canada.
We’re not going to publish something
that is contrary to, you know,
the government – official government
report from another government.
Other people will report, you know,
other things, and they’re free to do that.
But, you know, we are a government
agency, and we have to be cognizant
of our role and our responsibility.
So we’re not going to – we’re not
going to comment on, you know,
how much of rare earth production
in China might be illegal
in our official publications.
I mean, everybody knows that it’s
going on. It’s been widely reported,
and it’s any number of publications,
but not in – not in ours.
- I think that’s essentially my
question in – how comfortable are you
with the transparency and reliability
of the data, both from countries and
for corporations that clearly
have strategic perspectives and
might not want to, you know,
show their hand for various reasons?
And yet, we’re – anyway, so …
- … how does that enter in your …
- Well, that’s a very – that’s a
very good question, and it’s a very
important aspect of what we do.
I mean, the data we
is from direct canvassing
of U.S. producers.
All right, they don’t have to comply.
They don’t have to reply to our inquiries.
But they do, typically,
if it adds value for them.
It’s very different for information
we source from other countries.
And so we rely on a wide variety
of different kinds of information.
You know, our connections with
other government agencies,
people from the U.S. that are
on the ground in other countries,
such as embassy staff,
private – the private sector.
So we try to collect information from
as many different sources as we can.
In many ways, that part of our mission
is akin to intelligence gathering,
where you have lots of different inputs,
and you have to sort of decide,
based on the expertise of our specialists,
what our best estimate of those
quantities are for countries
where the information is
less than transparent,
which is for many of them.
Another thing that we do
often is send people on the ground.
Some countries, you know,
I’m not going to send my people
to because the security situation
is not – does not allow it.
But we had, for example, one of our
Africa specialists was in the DRC and in
Rwanda within the past couple years
to talk to traders and other people that
are involved with the material flow of
tantalum in particular out of the DRC.
So we rely on a
whole range of different sources.
And we do the best job
we can to evaluate that information
and make our
We also rely heavily on trade data,
which are, because they’re commercial,
more readily available.
That has its limitations too.
Tantalum, for example, is lumped in
with niobium often because they’re often
associated in the – in the mined product
that people will get those materials from.
But that’s another
good source of information
that is more transparent, right?
Trade flows – even if a country is
not very good at recording their trade
flows out, if it comes into the U.S.,
we’re pretty good at
recording it, as are most people.
So the major trade flows are –
I think are reasonably well-defined
and are a good source
of information for us.
- Not to drag you into politics.
I’ve been reading a great deal
for two weeks or so about
uranium situation and the
Uranium One deal as though
this were some national security
emergency, though I
certainly can’t see why.
And I wonder if you could speak a bit
about the uranium supply situation.
- Yeah, we don’t actually cover uranium.
So I’m going to dodge
the political question.
We cover non-fuel minerals. There are
people in USGS that work on uranium.
And so I don’t really know a lot
about the domestic supply situation
for uranium. I think most of what we’re
getting for domestic consumption
is actually coming from Canada,
which is not particularly of concern,
I don’t think, assuming that we,
you know, maintain civil relations
with our neighbor to the north.
So I really can’t comment on, you know,
domestic supply for uranium.
We do not perceive that as a big risk,
though, but others may.
- I noticed that you talk a lot
about things not being mined
in the United States.
- But there are –
minerals are not evenly distributed.
So how many of these things that we
import are not available in the United
States in significant quantities at all?
- Probably very few, to be honest.
And, to some extent,
we don’t really know.
This is why the Senate has asked us
to do this report and about what we
do know and identify things
that we don’t know about
that we need to study –
to do resource assessments for.
But there’s, I’m almost certain,
lots of mineral potential in the U.S.
that we still don’t know about,
particularly in Alaska.
And it’s a matter of doing resource
assessments for those materials.
The other aspect of that is that
a lot of the materials that we’re
most concerned about are produced
almost entirely as byproducts.
And so they would be potential
byproducts for major commodities,
such as copper or nickel.
We really haven’t done a
very good job of evaluating what the
potential are for those kinds of materials.
Also, there are significant byproduct
mineral concentrations with precious
metals. And there is a lot of focus on
precious and base commodity metals.
So that’s part of – I think an important
part of what we need to do in the
next 10 years or so is to really
understand better what the potential is
for domestic mining and
identify the most interesting areas
that the private sector
can then go and develop.
- Do you see any evidence in the
current Congress or in the administration
that would give you some evidence
that they would – that the United States
will eventually have to reduce their
need for imports and have more
internal building of this commodities?
- Okay, so I’m going to be careful not to
make any political statements here.
- I know.
- I think certainly, I can say that
there is a heightened interest in the new
administration in natural resource issues.
They particularly are focused on energy,
as you’re probably aware,
and energy on federal lands, but also,
I think, minerals as well.
I think certainly, I think the
secretary of the interior understands
that issue pretty clearly
and thinks that it’s important.
And so – and there certainly are
people in Congress – Senator Murkowski
chief among them, but also people in
the House who have, for years now,
been trying to prod our government
in the direction of doing something to
make it a little bit easier to develop
mineral resources in the United States.
Senator Murkowski has been introducing
a legislation for several years now,
and she has a bill again in this –
in this Congress that actually,
I think if it were
brought up, could pass.
Because it has pretty broad support –
It’s got a lot of things in it
that a lot of people agree on.
And it involves both
energy and minerals.
So there’s some chance that –
I think, that we are going to
start to make progress on this.
I think it’s clear to many people,
myself included, that, you know,
that it’s time for this to happen.
Whether it will or not, we’ll have to see.
But because it does take so long to,
you know, identify and develop and
put a mine into production, it’s not like,
you know, we’ve got
a lot of time to waste.
So it’s either now or
we’re not going to get –
we’re not going to get there.
- It seems like you’ve done
a lot of sophisticated –
you’ve done a lot of sophisticated
modeling on the supply side.
And you mentioned,
in some cases, the demand side.
But do you have a similar
depth of information and modeling
on the demand side
for all of these materials?
- No, not really. And there are
two schools of thought on that.
We’d like to do more on the
demand side, but the demand side
is a lot harder to measure.
We do report consumption every year.
And we report, you know,
increases in consumption.
But demand, particularly
at a granular level, is difficult.
And it’s very
difficult to forecast.
And if I could predict the demand
for mineral commodities, I would be
a mineral commodities trader, and …
I’d be, you know,
making a gazillion dollars.
But you can – you can –
you can identify – and I’ve given talks
on this before. Because people
always want us to predict the future.
And I always say
that I’m not very good at it.
But you can look at broad sectors
of the economy and say, all right,
what do we really – what do
we know we’re going to need?
Well, we need energy,
and we’re dependent on technology.
We need to eat, right, so fertilizer
minerals for agriculture.
For transportation, we – you know,
electric cars are coming, so we know,
based on current technology,
that demand for lithium and cobalt
and manganese and graphite
are going to increase
in the next few years.
So you can – you can look at those
big trends and say, you know,
these are the kinds of materials
we know we’re going to need.
You look at people’s projections about,
you know, what fraction of the
world’s automobile fleet is likely
to be electric cars by 2040
and get some idea about that.
But it’s more difficult,
and you’re more likely to
be wrong in making those
kinds of predictions.
But we do the best we can.
- So my question is a
little bit of a follow-up to something
that you briefly just talked about,
which is that there’s a lot of uncertainty
about the potential to
mine these things in the U.S.
And recently, I’ve been worked with
the USGS maps, spanning from, like,
the ’30s until the ’70s that are the oil
and minerals for fuel resources maps.
- And clearly that was an extensive
effort and push to get all of those made.
So I guess I’m just sort of curious what
it would take to do something similar
for some of these non-fuel resources.
- Yeah. It’s a very good question.
And, you know, the new associate
director for energy and minerals
at USGS has been pushing
exactly the kind of plan I think
that you’re talking about.
It’s called 3DEP.
And it would complete geologic
mapping of the United States,
which I think we’ve mapped –
at the scale that would be
necessary to guide the private sector
in developing their own deposits –
like, 17 or 20% of the U.S.
If we look at countries like
Australia and Canada, they have
a much more extensive coverage.
And because of that, it’s much easier
for companies to make decisions about
developing mines in those countries.
But that would be coupled
with geophysical surveys
that would give us the third dimension,
in addition to the geology,
over large sections of the U.S.,
particularly the western U.S.
So there’s – you know, there’s
an initiative that’s, you know,
floating around downtown
somewhere that would do exactly that.
I think it would be, like, a five- or
10-year effort, at least initially.
take longer than that.
But, you know, certainly that is
something that we can and should do.
And that’s not just,
you know, USGS saying that.
I mean, Congress has heard
that from industry.
There’s been testimony on
the Hill about that very subject.
And CEOs have told them that we
just don’t have the baseline information
that Australia and Canada have,
for example – countries that have
very similar, you know, legal and
environmental jurisdictions to us.
And they are successfully
and sustainability developing
their mineral resources.
There are a number of other things
that we should do that directly involve,
you know, support for USGS.
But, you know, I’m not supposed to
ask for money, so somebody
else will have to ask for it.
But that is one initiative that has been
floated downtown and is getting some
traction. Hopefully we will see that
come to fruition, maybe in fiscal ’19.
- Platinum is extremely important
for many, many reasons.
And the U.S.
has virtually none.
And I’m wondering about your – what
comments you might make about …
- Yeah, okay.
Actually, we do have platinum.
The Stillwater complex is a pretty
significant source of platinum-group
elements, and it was just acquired by
a South African company – Sibanye.
But it is considered by most
analysts as a critical mineral.
In part because concentration
of production is quite high
in South Africa and Russia.
And, you know, South Africa is clearly –
had a lot of issues with
governance in the past few years.
Their government is viewed, I think,
as doing things that are not very
supportive of the mining industry, and
they’ve been heavily criticized for that.
So it is a material that
we are concerned about.
We do have some domestic
capacity there, so it’s probably not
at the top of the list,
but it’s clearly important
going forward and something we’re
going to have to keep tracking.
- We are a very minor
producer of it, I believe.
- Yeah. But we at least have some.
And we have mining operations –
viable mining operations.
Which you can’t say for
some of the other materials
we’re talking about. Yes?
- I’m not quite an audience plant for this,
but I’m getting the impression that
you are very interested in domestic
production, or at least examining it
and wondering how we can approach it
more responsibly, both socially and
economically, and environmentally.
You keep mentioning
Australia as a leader in this.
Can you talk some about what it
would take to develop mineral resources
in a responsible way, which would
avoid the not-in-my-backyard
sort of push to make it external?
- Yeah, I’m not sure I can
answer that or solve that one.
Part of it is education.
People, I think – you know,
we’ve sort of evolved to a society that is,
in many ways, detached from the
physical requirements that support our
standard of living – minerals, energy.
I mean, we just don’t – you know,
people think that gasoline
comes from a pump and that,
you know, the smartphone comes from,
Amazon.com or something.
So part of it’s education. And that’s –
you know, we do a lot of that in USGS.
I speak regularly to groups about,
you know, our raw material needs
and how that relates to
people’s standard of living.
That – even that is probably
not going to convince some people
because people don’t
want to give up things, right?
And that really is what – you know,
people who tell me that they don’t want
to mine, what they are saying to
me is that, I don’t want to mine here.
And so my immediate question then is,
well, what do you want to give up
in exchange for not mining, you know,
in our country, or not mining at all?
You know, you want to
give up your smartphone?
You want to give up your car?
What is it that you want to give up?
You can’t – you can’t have all of these
things without mining. And by the way,
we can’t have, for example, renewable
energy without a lot of mining.
I worked in the mining
industry for a long time.
I know mining can
be done sustainably.
You know, the mining industry today –
the modern mining industry is
not the mining industry of 50 years ago,
which is what a lot of people look at
and say – you know,
we’ve got all these legacy issues,
and so we don’t want to –
we don’t want to do this mining.
But there’s really no escaping the fact
that much of the extractive industries
are, you know, very disruptive.
I mean, you have to dig, right?
You have to dig holes,
and then you have to –
you know, you produce materials
that you can’t use.
But it can be done responsibly
and companies are doing it.
And increasingly, they are required to do
it that way, and you have to – you know,
you can’t just, you know, mine and then
walk away from it and leave the legacy
costs for the – for the society to absorb.
So, you know, I think we just
have to continue to try to make the case
to people that, you know,
if you want to have the things that
you value and that support your standard
of living, then we have to have mining.
Whether it’s done here or
somewhere else, it has to be done.
And there’s really
no escaping that.
And from my perspective, it’s better
to do it in a sustainable way than it is
to push it off somewhere else where
it’s not going to be done responsibly.
Because, you know,
the people there will suffer
because of that, and globally it’s a –
it’s a net negative.
But I don’t have any easy answers.
Because it’s the kind of thing that –
you know, that some people
are just never going to accept.
I try not to be – sort of come off as,
you know, the Mr. Miner,
Mr. Industry Miner guy. Because,
you know, USGS is a fact-based
scientific organization, and we are
trying to present the facts as best we can.
But it is a fact that we depend on
these materials, and increasingly,
we’re not producing
So if that’s going to continue, then I
think we’re going to have problems.
- Steve, thanks.
Very interesting talk, and Diane
allowed me to make one more question.
Your last response led me to wonder,
are all these things
We’re not talking about reusing
our lithium, reusing these
They go into our landfill,
and then they’re no longer
available or the source of …
- I think most things, in principle, can
be recycled. Many are not these days.
I mean, we’ve just done a study
of tantalum to look at, you know,
the global lifecycle of tantalum flow.
And very little of what’s been
mined is actually being recovered.
So we’ve got a lot more
work to do on recycling.
And again, you know, this is an area
where the U.S. is well behind our allies.
I’ve been to facilities in Japan where
they are developing technology
to extract trace metals from
electronic scrap, for example.
People have been extracting the precious
metals for a while from those materials,
but the trace metals that we’re
talking about –
tantalum and other things –
we don’t have the
technologies for most of those.
Things like lithium, you know, recycling
of lead acid batteries is ubiquitous.
I mean, they’re almost all recycled.
There’s at least one company
in California that is recycling
lithium-ion batteries, and I expect that,
with widespread adoption of electric
cars and lithium-ion batteries that
those materials are going to get recycled.
I mean, those are perfect unit
uses of materials that can readily
be segregated in a waste stream
But there are commodities that the
U.S. recovers significant portions of.
I mean, for example,
domestically, we get about
half of our tungsten
So some things are easier and
more readily recycled than others.
And that’s certainly
part of the answer.
With the anticipated growth that
we expect in global consumption,
it’s not going to be enough.
We’re still going to have to mine.
But it certainly can contribute to the
global balance, and in a very positive
way. So we’ve got to work on the
technologies to recover those things.
And that, in part, means, you know,
learning how to design things in a
way that allows them to be readily
segregated at the end of life.
If it’s just too convenient
to throw it away,
then that’s what’s going to happen.
But if you make it easier to recover those
materials, then it’ll be economic to
recover them, and people will do it.
- Do you know whether U.S.
government invests in pilot-light
projects for mineral resources?
- For which projects?
- Mineral resources.
I’m thinking specifically –
I’m remembering the –
when China cut off the rare earth supply,
and it took us some time to restart the
Mountain Pass mine or other sources.
- Yeah. Mm-hmm.
- Do you know that there – are there
projects to keep open in a mothball state
or a pilot-light state some …
- From the government’s …
- Yes. The government.
- Yeah. None that I’m aware of.
Though there is a – there is a provision
in procurement policy for the
Department of Defense called
Title III that would allow
the Department of Defense
to get involved in projects that –
for materials they viewed
as particularly critical.
As far as I know, they’ve only used
it once. That was for beryllium.
They basically made an arrangement
with Materion – a U.S. company
that mines beryllium in Utah –
to build a facility in Ohio that
makes high-purity beryllium metal
and beryllium compounds,
which are essential
for defense applications.
So the Department of Defense
used this Title III provision to
basically ensure Materion that
they would make a return on their
investment is what basically –
if you build this facility,
we will take a certain amount
of this material at market prices.
So there’s a mechanism there.
It’s been very – it has not been used
extensively at all for materials.
They may be using it in other areas.
It’s a procurement policy.
But I know they are considering
doing that for other materials.
And I think it is one way
that government can take
a more proactive role.
And, you know, we are certainly,
you know, engaged with our U.S.
government agency partners to help
them understand what the most critical
materials are and the forms of those
and are happy to, you know,
advise them on that.
It’s really part of our role is to –
is to give the other agencies the
facts they need to make those
kinds of decisions.
- Could you – could you say more
about the tungsten recycling?
I have no idea where
it’s used, it would …
- Yeah. So tungsten – the principal use
in the U.S. is in tungsten carbide used in,
like, drill bits for hydrocarbon drilling
and other kinds of drilling.
So there’s a kind of closed loop there.
You know, so when these wear down,
the materials get recycled back
to the manufacturer and recovered
and put into new tungsten carbide for –
mostly, I think, the major application
is for drilling applications.
- Thank you.
- Going once?
Well, Steve, thank you so much.
That was a delightful talk.
And you all have
to really thank him.
He flew out from our
Virginia office to give this talk.
[ Applause ]
- My pleasure. Thank you for all the
great questions. Appreciate that.
- And thank you all for coming here.
Hope to see you November 30th.
[ Silence ]