Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Comparison of U.S. net import reliance for nonfuel mineral commodities—A 60-year retrospective (1954–1984–2014)

December 14, 2015


The economic vitality and national security of the United States depend on the reliable supply of numerous nonfuel mineral commodities. Over the past six decades, many of these commodities have been sourced increasingly from outside the United States. The mix of commodities for which the United States is import dependent has changed as technologies have advanced, as substitute materials have been developed, and as world economies have changed. Although reliance on imports is only one of the many factors that determine supply risk, a clear, long-term trend has emerged from the data compiled and published by the U.S. Geological Survey, National Minerals Information Center (USGS–NMIC), and its predecessor organizations. Because the global distribution of mineral resources and reserves is not uniform, the United States has always been import reliant for some mineral commodities. Essentially, the type of commodities and the countries from which they are sourced determine risk related to import dependence. In light of projections that 2.5 billion to 3 billion people globally could move into the middle class by 2030, the demand for many types of mineral commodities is likely to continue to increase. Recent concerns regarding so-called “critical minerals” have been driven by market dislocations in the rare-earth-element supply chain in 2010 that resulted from a short-term policy decision by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to limit exports. That policy has since been changed as a result of actions by the World Trade Organization, but the events that followed, such as higher prices and intensive efforts to diversify sources of supply, illustrate the underlying issues of supply risk and the influence that disruptions can have on supply. These factors are often used in the classification of a mineral commodity as “critical.”

The USGS–NMIC collects, analyzes, and disseminates information on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis for more than 90 nonfuel mineral commodities from more than 180 countries. These data indicate that from 1954 through 2014 there was (1) a clear increase in the number and type of nonfuel mineral commodities for which the United States was net import reliant, (2) an increase in the percentage of import reliance for individual nonfuel mineral commodities, and (3) a shift in the geographic distribution of the source countries.

Publication Year 2015
Title Comparison of U.S. net import reliance for nonfuel mineral commodities—A 60-year retrospective (1954–1984–2014)
DOI 10.3133/fs20153082
Authors Steven M. Fortier, John H. DeYoung,, Elizabeth S. Sangine, Emily K. Schnebele
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2015-3082
Index ID fs20153082
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Minerals Information Center