A new report from the United States Geological Survey shows that US mineral production dropped in 2015 and left us more dependent on foreign sources for much of our mineral needs.
The USGS report is summarized by Andrew Topf at Mining.com:
Concerns have been raised for years that the United States is too dependent on other countries, namely China, for rare earth elements deemed essential for its aerospace and electronics industries, leading to suggestions that the U.S. create a strategic minerals reserve. However that plan was scotched with the closure of the only rare earths mine last year in the United States, Molycorp’s Mountain Pass facility in California. The mine operated in the red for years and was finally felled by low rare earth prices.
Around 95 percent of rare earths are produced in China and according to the USGS the situation has only gotten worse. In 2015 the United States was 100%-dependent on other countries for 19 minerals commodities including manganese, bauxite and graphite. A map from the report shows Canada and China as the countries the U.S. is most reliant on, followed by South Africa. The U.S. is also over 50 percent dependent on Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, Russia, UK, India, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Mexico for between 4 and 6 commodities.
Metal mines were worst hit, with a 15 percent fall in values, or $26.6 billion, compared to 2014.The USGS blamed declining demand for metals especially in China as well as a global supply glut for several commodities. It also notes the closure of a number of U.S. metals mines including Mountain Pass. The value of processed mineral materials was also lowered from $659 billion in 2014 to $630 billion last year – a 4 percent drop. Read more at Mining.com.