US now 100% dependent on other countries for 19 critical minerals

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

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

Importance of domestic mining to manufacturing

The National Mining Association has just released a new survey of more than 400 senior level executives in the manufacturing industry. The survey revealed significant concern among business leaders that current mining policy presents a challenge to their supply chain and that reform is necessary.

The issue of minerals and metals supply is a growing concern among U.S. businesses, as U.S. manufacturers currently rely on foreign countries for more than half of the minerals and metals they use. Without a stable domestic supply chain, their access to critical and strategic minerals and metals is susceptible to disruption.

Results of the survey are shown on the info-graphic below:


Iron – critical to nearly every industry

The National Mining Association has produced a new infographic on the importance of iron.

“From energy and construction to transportation and equipment manufacturing, iron ore is critical to nearly every industry. Beyond its applications, iron ore production is an economic stimulant critical to U.S. growth. Because of the U.S.’ immense supply of iron ore, America ranks among the top 10 producers of the metal. In fact, in 2013, the value of iron ore produced in the U.S. amounted to $5 billion. Furthermore, iron ore production supported more than 20,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in 2012.”

The U.S. Geological Survey notes that “In 2012, mines in Michigan and Minnesota shipped 97% of the usable ore produced in the United States, with an estimated value of $6.0 billion. Thirteen iron ore mines (11 open pits, 1 reclamation operation, and 1 dredging operation), 9 concentration plants, and 9 pelletizing plants operated during the year. Almost all ore was concentrated before shipment. Eight of the mines operated by three companies accounted for virtually all of the production. The United States was estimated to have produced and consumed 2% of the world’s iron ore output.”

I have reproduced NMA’s infographic below. To see a high-resolution copy click here.

iron ore 1

iron ore 2