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Critical minerals: A review of elemental trends in comprehensive criticality studies

October 11, 2018

Mineral criticality is a subjective concept that has evolved throughout history. An abundance of literature on this topic has been published over the last decade, encompassing a variety of criteria and methodologies. To our knowledge, this work is the first large-scale effort to organize and analyze recent comprehensive criticality studies in order to determine if a consensus exists within the global community as to which elements are critical. Here, we set aside methodological differences and analyze the results of 32 comprehensive nonfuel mineral criticality studies that evaluate at least 10 elements. Of the 56 elements or elemental groups evaluated, the three most commonly identified as critical in these studies are the rare-earth elements (REE), the platinum-group metals (PGM), and indium. Most of the studies also identify tungsten, germanium, cobalt, niobium, tantalum, gallium, and antimonyas critical. These results are consistent with the 11 most recent studies, published post-2014, which also identify bismuth as critical. Furthermore, the same elements identified in the complete dataset, except antimony, were designated as critical when normalized by geographic region. Magnesium was also deemed critical. Elements may be identified consistently as critical for several reasons; similarities in methodologies, which embody evolving perceptions of risk, or changing national and institutional priorities. This work compiles a large number of recent criticality studies in an effort to define a consensus of currently critical materials, essentially defining the modern criticality paradigm, which is valuable when interpreting an individual perspective in more global context.

Publication Year 2018
Title Critical minerals: A review of elemental trends in comprehensive criticality studies
DOI 10.1016/j.resourpol.2018.06.015
Authors Sarah M. Hayes, Erin A. McCullough
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Resources Policy
Index ID 70200009
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center