The 50 Minerals Critical to U.S. Security
The U.S. aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 as part of its commitment to tackling climate change, but might be lacking the critical minerals needed to achieve its goals.
The American green economy will rely on renewable sources of energy like wind and solar, along with the electrification of transportation. However, local production of the raw materials necessary to produce these technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, is lacking. Understandably, this has raised concerns in Washington.
In this graphic, based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey, we list all of the minerals that the government has deemed critical to both the economic and national security of the United States.
What are Critical Minerals?
A critical mineral is defined as a non-fuel material considered vital for the economic well-being of the world’s major and emerging economies, whose supply may be at risk. This can be due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, trade policy, or other factors.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of the Interior released a list of 35 critical minerals. The new list, released in February 2022, contains 15 more commodities.
Much of the increase in the new list is the result of splitting the rare earth elements and platinum group elements into individual entries rather than including them as “mineral groups.” In addition, the 2022 list of critical minerals adds nickel and zinc to the list while removing helium, potash, rhenium, and strontium.
|Mineral||Example Uses||Net Import Reliance|
|Beryllium||Alloying agent in aerospace, defense industries||11%|
|Aluminum||Power lines, construction, electronics||13%|
|Zirconium||High-temparature ceramics production||25%|
|Germanium||Fiber optics, night vision applications||50%|
|Nickel||Stainless steel, rechargeable batteries||50%|
|Tin||Coatings, alloys for steel||75%|
|Cobalt||Rechargeable batteries, superalloys||76%|
|Antimony||Lead-acid batteries, flame retardants||81%|
|Zinc||Metallurgy to produce galvanized steel||83%|
|Titanium||White pigment, metal alloys||88%|
|Bismuth||Medical, atomic research||94%|
|Tellurium||Solar cells, thermoelectric devices||95%|
|Vanadium||Alloying agent for iron and steel||96%|
|Arsenic||Semi-conductors, lumber preservatives, pesticides||100%|
|Cerium||Catalytic converters, ceramics, glass, metallurgy||100%|
|Dysprosium||Data storage devices, lasers||100%|
|Erbium||Fiber optics, optical amplifiers, lasers||100%|
|Europium||Phosphors, nuclear control rods||100%|
|Fluorspar||Manufacture of aluminum, cement, steel, gasoline||100%|
|Gadolinium||Medical imaging, steelmaking||100%|
|Gallium||Integrated circuits, LEDs||100%|
|Holmium||Permanent magnets, nuclear control rods||100%|
|Indium||Liquid crystal display screens||100%|
|Lanthanum||Catalysts, ceramics, glass, polishing compounds||100%|
|Lutetium||Scintillators for medical imaging, cancer therapies||100%|
|Neodymium||Rubber catalysts, medical, industrial lasers||100%|
|Praseodymium||Permanent magnets, batteries, aerospace alloys||100%|
|Rubidium||Research, development in electronics||100%|
|Samarium||Cancer treatment, absorber in nuclear reactors||100%|
|Scandium||Alloys, ceramics, fuel cells||100%|
|Tantalum||Electronic components, superalloys||100%|
|Terbium||Permanent magnets, fiber optics, lasers||100%|
|Thulium||Metal alloys, lasers||100%|
|Ytterbium||Catalysts, scintillometers, lasers, metallurgy||100%|
|Yttrium||Ceramic, catalysts, lasers, metallurgy, phosphors||100%|
|Iridium||Coating of anodes for electrochemical processes||No data available|
|Rhodium||Catalytic converters, electrical components||No data available|
|Ruthenium||Electrical contacts, chip resistors in computers||No data available|
|Hafnium||Nuclear control rods, alloys||Net exporter|
The challenge for the U.S. is that the local production of these raw materials is extremely limited.
For instance, in 2021 there was only one operating nickel mine in the country, the Eagle mine in Michigan. The facility ships its concentrates abroad for refining and is scheduled to close in 2025. Likewise, the country only hosted one lithium mine, the Silver Peak Mine in Nevada.
At the same time, most of the country’s supply of critical minerals depends on countries that have historically competed with America.
China’s Dominance in Minerals
Perhaps unsurprisingly, China is the single largest supply source of mineral commodities for the United States.
Cesium, a critical metal used in a wide range of manufacturing, is one example. There are only three pegmatite mines in the world that can produce cesium, and all were controlled by Chinese companies in 2021.
Furthermore, China refines nearly 90% of the world’s rare earths. Despite the name, these elements are abundant on the Earth’s crust and make up the majority of listed critical minerals. They are essential for a variety of products like EVs, advanced ceramics, computers, smartphones, wind turbines, monitors, and fiber optics.
After China, the next largest source of mineral commodities to the United States has been Canada, which provided the United States with 16 different elements in 2021.
The Rising Demand for Critical Minerals
As the world’s clean energy transitions gather pace, demand for critical minerals is expected to grow quickly.
According to the International Energy Association, the rise of low-carbon power generation is projected to triple mineral demand from this sector by 2040.
The shift to a sustainable economy is important, and consequently, securing the critical minerals necessary for it is just as vital.
Ranked: The World’s Largest Copper Producers
Many new technologies critical to the energy transition rely on copper. Here are the world’s largest copper producers.
Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers
Man has relied on copper since prehistoric times. It is a major industrial metal with many applications due to its high ductility, malleability, and electrical conductivity.
Many new technologies critical to fighting climate change, like solar panels and wind turbines, rely on the red metal.
But where does the copper we use come from? Using the U.S. Geological Survey’s data, the above infographic lists the world’s largest copper producing countries in 2021.
The Countries Producing the World’s Copper
Many everyday products depend on minerals, including mobile phones, laptops, homes, and automobiles. Incredibly, every American requires 12 pounds of copper each year to maintain their standard of living.
North, South, and Central America dominate copper production, as these regions collectively host 15 of the 20 largest copper mines.
Chile is the top copper producer in the world, with 27% of global copper production. In addition, the country is home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.
Chile is followed by another South American country, Peru, responsible for 10% of global production.
|Rank||Country||2021E Copper Production (Million tonnes)||Share|
|#5||🇺🇸 United States||1.2||6%|
|🌍 Other countries||2.8||13%|
|🌐 World total||21.0||100%|
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China share third place, with 8% of global production each. Along with being a top producer, China also consumes 54% of the world’s refined copper.
Copper’s Role in the Green Economy
Technologies critical to the energy transition, such as EVs, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines require much more copper than conventional fossil fuel based counterparts.
For example, copper usage in EVs is up to four times more than in conventional cars. According to the Copper Alliance, renewable energy systems can require up to 12x more copper compared to traditional energy systems.
|Technology||2020 Installed Capacity (megawatts)||Copper Content (2020, tonnes)||2050p Installed Capacity (megawatts)||Copper Content (2050p, tonnes)|
|Solar PV||126,735 MW||633,675||372,000 MW||1,860,000|
|Onshore Wind||105,015 MW||451,565||202,000 MW||868,600|
|Offshore Wind||6,013 MW||57,725||45,000 MW||432,000|
With these technologies’ rapid and large-scale deployment, copper demand from the energy transition is expected to increase by nearly 600% by 2030.
As the transition to renewable energy and electrification speeds up, so will the pressure for more copper mines to come online.
How Gold Royalties Outperform Gold and Mining Stocks
Gold royalty companies shield investors from inflation’s rising expenses, resulting in stronger returns than gold and gold mining companies.
How Gold Royalties Outperform Gold and Mining Stocks
Gold and gold mining companies have long provided a diverse option for investors looking for gold-backed returns, however royalty companies have quietly been outperforming both.
While inflation’s recent surge has dampened profits for gold mining companies, royalty companies have remained immune thanks to their unique structure, offering stronger returns in both the short and long term.
After Part One of this series sponsored by Gold Royalty explained exactly how gold royalties avoid rising expenses caused by inflation, Part Two showcases the resulting stronger returns royalty companies can offer.
Since the pandemic lows in mid-March of 2020, gold royalty companies have greatly outperformed both gold and gold mining companies, shining especially bright in the past year’s highly inflationary environment.
While gold is up by 9% since the lows, gold mining companies are down by almost 3% over the same time period. On the other hand, gold royalty companies have offered an impressive 33% return for investors.
In the graphic above, you can see how gold royalty and gold mining company returns were closely matched during 2020, but when inflation rose in 2021, royalty companies held strong while mining company returns fell downwards.
|Returns since the pandemic lows |
|Returns of the past four months
(July 8-November 8, 2022)
|Gold Royalty Companies||33.8%||1.7%|
|Gold Mining Companies||-3.0%||-8.6%|
Even over the last four months as gold’s price fell by 1.7%, royalty companies managed to squeeze out a positive 1.7% return while gold mining companies dropped by 8.6%.
Gold Royalty Dividends Compared to Gold Mining Companies
Along with more resilient returns, gold royalty companies also offer significantly more stability than gold mining companies when it comes to dividend payouts.
Gold mining companies have highly volatile dividend payouts that are significantly adjusted depending on gold’s price. While this has provided high dividend payouts when gold’s price increases, it also results in huge dividend cuts when gold’s price falls as seen in the chart below.
Rather than following gold’s price, royalty companies seek to provide growing stability with their dividend payouts, adjusting them so that shareholders are consistently rewarded.
Over the last 10 years, dividend-paying royalty companies have steadily increased their payouts, offering stability even when gold prices fall.
Why Gold Royalty Companies Outperform During Inflation
Gold has provided investors with the stability of a hard monetary asset for centuries, with mining companies offering a riskier high volatility bet on gold-backed cash flows. However, when gold prices fall or inflation increases operational costs, gold mining companies fall significantly more than the precious metal.
Gold royalty companies manage to avoid inflation’s bite or falling gold prices’ crunch on profit margins as they have no exposure to rising operational expenses like wages and energy fuels while also having a much smaller headcount and lower G&A expenses as a result.
Along with avoiding rising expenses, gold royalty companies still retain exposure to mine expansions and exploration, offering just as much upside as mining companies when projects grow.
Gold Royalty offers inflation-resistant gold exposure with a portfolio of royalties on top-tier mines across the Americas. Click here to find out more about Gold Royalty.
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