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China Dominates the Supply of U.S. Critical Minerals List

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See this visualization first on the Voronoi app.

<A bar chart showing China’s share of U.S. imports on the country's critical minerals list.

China Dominates the Supply of U.S. Critical Minerals List

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Most countries have, for many decades, kept a record of their own critical minerals list.

For example, the U.S., drew up a list of “war minerals” during World War I, containing important minerals which could not be found and produced in abundance domestically. They included: tin, nickel, platinum, nitrates and potash.

Since then, as the economy has grown and innovated, critical mineral lists have expanded considerably. The Energy Act of 2020 defines a critical mineral as:

“A non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic or national security of the U.S., whose supply chains are vulnerable to disruption.” — Energy Act, 2020.

Currently there are 50 entries on this list and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that China is the leading producer for 30 of them. From USGS data, we visualize China’s share of U.S. imports for 10 critical minerals.

What Key Critical Minerals Does the U.S. Import From China?

The U.S. is 100% import-reliant for its supply of yttrium, with China responsible for 94% of U.S. imports of the metal from 2018 to 2021.

A soft silvery metal, yttrium is used as an additive for alloys, making microwave filters for radars, and as a catalyst in ethylene polymerization—a key process in making certain kinds of plastic.

China is a major supplier of the following listed critical minerals to the U.S.

Critical MineralChina's Share
of U.S. Imports
U.S. Imports (Tonnes)Uses
Yttrium94%1,000Catalyst, Microwave filters
Rare Earths74%11,940Smartphones, Cameras
Bismuth65%2,800Metallurgy
Antimony63%25,590Batteries
Arsenic57%5,400Semiconductors
Germanium54%29,000Chips, Fiber optics
Gallium53%12,000Chips, Fiber optics
Barite38%2,300Hydrocarbon production
Graphite (natural)33%82,000Batteries, Lubricants
Tungsten29%14,000Metallurgy

Note: China’s share of U.S. critical minerals imports is based on average imports from 2018 to 2021.

Meanwhile, the U.S. also imports nearly three-quarters of its rare earth compounds and metals demand from China. Rare earth elements—so called since they are not found in easily-mined, concentrated clusters—are a collection of 15 elements on the periodic table, known as the lanthanide series.

ℹ️ Yttrium and scandium exhibit similar rare-earth properties, and are found in the same ore bodies. They are often grouped together with the lanthanide series.

Rare earths are used in smartphones, cameras, hard disks, and LEDs but also, crucially, in the clean energy and defense industries.

Does China’s Dominance of U.S. Critical Minerals Supply Matter?

The USGS estimates that China could potentially disrupt the global rare earth oxide supply by cutting off 40–50% production, impacting suppliers of advanced components used in U.S. defense systems.

A version of this sort of trade warfare is already playing out. Earlier this year, China implemented export controls on germanium and gallium. The U.S. relies on China for around 54% of its demand for both minerals, used for producing chips, solar panels, and fiber optics.

China’s controls were seen as a retaliation against the U.S. which has restricted the supply of chips, chip design software, and lithography machines to Chinese companies.

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Mining

Visualizing Raw Steel Production in 2023

China produces more than half the world’s steel.

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Voronoi graphic showing top raw steel producers in 2023.

Visualizing Raw Steel Production in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Steel is essential for the economy due to its crucial role in infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, and transportation sectors.

This graphic breaks down the estimated global production of raw steel in 2023. The data was sourced from the U.S. Geological Survey as of January 2024.

China Produces More Than Half the World’s Steel

One major issue facing the steel industry is overcapacity in top producer China.

Steel production in China has surpassed demand in recent years, leading to downward pressure on the profit margins of steel mills worldwide.

Historically, China’s troubled real estate sector has accounted for over one-third of the country’s steel consumption. To address this issue, the Chinese government has mandated steel production cuts since 2021.

Far behind China, India is the second-biggest producer of steel, followed by Japan.

CountryRegion2023 Production (million tonnes)
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia1,000
🇮🇳 IndiaAsia140
🇯🇵 JapanAsia87
🇺🇸 U.S.North America80
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope75
🇰🇷 S. KoreaAsia68
🌍 Rest of World420
Total1,870

Infinite Recyclability

Steel is an alloy primarily composed of iron ore containing less than 2% carbon, 1% manganese, and other trace elements. It is 1,000 times stronger than iron and can be recycled over and over without sacrificing quality.

Steel is widely used in various industries. It is a fundamental material in construction, providing support through beams, internal structures, and roofing.

Moreover, steel’s corrosion-resistant properties make it ideal for water infrastructure. Stainless steel pipes are the preferred choice for underground water systems, ensuring longevity and purity in water transportation.

Additionally, most canned foods are stored in steel containers for preservation, as steel does not rust.

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