U.S. Reliance on Nonfuel Mineral Imports Increasing

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Key nonfuel mineral commodities that support the U.S. economy and national security are increasingly being sourced from outside the U.S., according to a new U.S. Geological Survey publication.

Key nonfuel mineral commodities that support the U.S. economy and national security are increasingly being sourced from outside the U.S., according to a new U.S. Geological Survey publication.

Over the past 60 years, there has been an increase in the number and diversity of nonfuel commodities that the U.S. imports as well as the extent to which the U.S. is import reliant. In 1954, for example, the U.S. was 100 percent import reliant for the supply of eight minerals commodities, meaning all of the supply came from outside of the U.S. By 2014 this number had increased to 19.

“Because the global distribution of mineral reserves and resources is not uniform, the United States has always been import reliant for some mineral commodities. It is important to recognize, however, that import reliance does not necessarily mean that there is a supply risk,” said Steven M. Fortier, Director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center.  “Essentially, the type of commodities imported and the countries from which they are sourced determine risk related to import reliance.”

In addition, the new report also found the geographic distribution of sources has also changed dramatically. In 1954, the sources for imported mineral commodities were dominantly in the Western Hemisphere, with Canada, Mexico and Brazil as major suppliers. While these countries remain major suppliers today, the geographic distribution of mineral commodity import sources had become much more global with many new sources, particularly in Asia, by 1984. This trend has continued. By 2014, China had surpassed Canada as the leading import source, supplying 24 nonfuel mineral commodities, about half of the 47 nonfuel mineral commodities for which the United States was greater than 50 percent net import reliant.

“As the U.S. becomes increasingly reliant on a wide range of mineral resources needed to fuel technological developments that support our economy and national security, it is more important than ever that we continue to monitor and evaluate global changes in supply and demand of these important resources,” said Fortier.