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Critical mineral resources of the United States—Economic and environmental geology and prospects for future supply

December 19, 2017

Summary

Mineral commodities are vital for economic growth, improving the quality of life, providing for national defense, and the overall functioning of modern society. Minerals are being used in larger quantities than ever before and in an increasingly diverse range of applications. With the increasing demand for a considerably more diverse suite of mineral commodities has come renewed recognition that competition and conflict over mineral resources can pose significant risks to the manufacturing industries that depend on them. In addition, production of many mineral commodities has become concentrated in relatively few countries (for example, tungsten, rare-earth elements, and antimony in China; niobium in Brazil; and platinum-group elements in South Africa and Russia), thus increasing the risk for supply disruption owing to political, social, or other factors. At the same time, an increasing awareness of and sensitivity to potential environmental and health issues caused by the mining and processing of many mineral commodities may place additional restrictions on mineral supplies. These factors have led a number of Governments, including the Government of the United States, to attempt to identify those mineral commodities that are viewed as most “critical” to the national economy and (or) security if supplies should be curtailed.

This book presents resource and geologic information on the following 23 mineral commodities currently among those viewed as important to the national economy and national security of the United States: antimony (Sb), barite (barium, Ba), beryllium (Be), cobalt (Co), fluorite or fluorspar (fluorine, F), gallium (Ga), germanium (Ge), graphite (carbon, C), hafnium (Hf), indium (In), lithium (Li), manganese (Mn), niobium (Nb), platinum-group elements (PGE), rare-earth elements (REE), rhenium (Re), selenium (Se), tantalum (Ta), tellurium (Te), tin (Sn), titanium (Ti), vanadium (V), and zirconium (Zr). For a number of these commodities—for example, graphite, manganese, niobium, and tantalum—the United States is currently wholly dependent on imports to meet its needs. The first two chapters (A and B) deal with general information pertinent to the study of mineral resources. Chapters C through V describe individual mineral commodities and include an overview of current uses of the commodity, identified resources and their distribution nationally and globally, the state of current geologic knowledge, the potential for finding additional deposits nationally and globally, and geoenvironmental issues that may be related to the production and uses of the commodity. These chapters are updates of the commodity chapters published in 1973 in U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 820, “United States Mineral Resources.”