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Embedded critical material flow: The case of niobium, the United States, and China

October 17, 2022

Niobium, often classified as critical, is typically embedded within steels essential for infrastructure and transportation. Most niobium-consuming countries are import-dependent on primary stage niobium, meaning traditional material flow analysis, which often excludes critical commodities embedded within products of large-scale industries, would miss important flows in the fabrication and manufacturing stages and underestimate niobium consumption. This study presents the first dynamic (2000–2020) niobium flow analysis for two niobium-consuming, net import-dependent countries: the United States (U.S.) and China. Results demonstrate that the U.S. is import-dependent throughout all stages of the niobium flow cycle including embedded and primary flows, whereas China is only import-dependent on primary niobium. Moreover, while most U.S. imports of niobium embedded within (semi-)finished goods are consumed domestically, most niobium-containing goods manufactured in China are exported, suggesting a supply disruption would affect their economies differently. This research demonstrates the necessity of embedded flows for criticality assessments and evaluating supply restrictions.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2023
Title Embedded critical material flow: The case of niobium, the United States, and China
DOI 10.1016/j.resconrec.2022.106698
Authors Dalton Miles Mccaffrey, Nedal T. Nassar, Simon M. Jowitt, Abraham De Jesus Padilla, Laurence R. Bird
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Resources, Conservation & Recycling
Index ID 70238015
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Minerals Information Center

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