The United States Geological Survey has released a new list of 50 mineral commodities critical to the U.S. economy and national security after an extensive multi-agency assessment.
The 2022 list of critical minerals was determined using the most up-to-date scientific methods to evaluate mineral criticality and it contains 15 more commodities compared to the nation’s first list of critical minerals created in 2018.
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.
“Critical minerals play a significant role in our national security, economy, renewable energy development and infrastructure,” said Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary of the Interior for water and science. “USGS data collection and analysis scans the horizon for emerging issues in crucial supply chains, and every three years identifies the nation’s current vulnerabilities to potential disruptions.”
The new list was created based on directives from the Energy Act of 2020, which indicates that at least every three years, the Department of the Interior must review and update the list of critical minerals, update the methodology used to identify potential critical minerals, take interagency feedback and public comment through the Federal Register, and ultimately finalize the list of critical minerals.
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. and which has a supply chain vulnerable to disruption. Critical minerals are also characterized as serving an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.
The 2022 list of critical minerals, while “final,” is not intended as a permanent designation of mineral criticality but will be a dynamic list updated periodically to represent current data on supply, demand, concentration of production and current policy priorities.
“Mineral criticality is not static, but changes over time,” said Steven M. Fortier, USGS National Minerals Information Center director. “The 2022 list of critical minerals was created using the most recent available data for non-fuel mineral commodities. However, we’re always analyzing mineral markets and developing new methods to determine the various and evolving critical mineral supply chain risks.”
Prior to publishing the 2022 list of critical minerals, the USGS completed a thorough review of more than 1,000 comments received from the public, stakeholders, and local and state officials. These comments were received in response to the draft critical minerals list the USGS released for public comment in November 2021.
“The USGS appreciates the input we received from the public and stakeholders,” Fortier said. “In addition to reviewing each comment for the current methodology, we are also identifying opportunities to include some of the suggestions we received in the next update of the critical minerals list methodology.”
The list of critical minerals will be the focus of USGS research quantifying critical mineral potential within the U.S.
In President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the USGS received funding for its Earth Mapping Resource Initiative, which will update the Nation’s mapping of these minerals, including those still in the ground and those present in mine wastes.
The Energy Act of 2020 directed the USGS to update the list of critical minerals, and the list is timely to provide guidance for use of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds, both for the USGS and other agencies.
The 2022 list includes the following critical minerals and readers may click a mineral’s name to find relevant statistics and publications:
- Aluminum, used in almost all sectors of the economy
- Antimony, used in lead-acid batteries and flame retardants
- Arsenic, used in semi-conductors
- Barite, used in hydrocarbon production.
- Beryllium, used as an alloying agent in aerospace and defense industries
- Bismuth, used in medical and atomic research
- Cerium, used in catalytic converters, ceramics, glass, metallurgy, and polishing compounds
- Cesium, used in research and development
- Chromium, used primarily in stainless steel and other alloys
- Cobalt, used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys
- Dysprosium, used in permanent magnets, data storage devices, and lasers
- Erbium, used in fiber optics, optical amplifiers, lasers, and glass colorants
- Europium, used in phosphors and nuclear control rods
- Fluorspar, used in the manufacture of aluminum, cement, steel, gasoline, and fluorine chemicals
- Gadolinium, used in medical imaging, permanent magnets, and steelmaking
- Gallium, used for integrated circuits and optical devices like LEDs
- Germanium, used for fiber optics and night vision applications
- Graphite , used for lubricants, batteries, and fuel cells
- Hafnium, used for nuclear control rods, alloys, and high-temperature ceramics
- Holmium, used in permanent magnets, nuclear control rods, and lasers
- Indium, used in liquid crystal display screens
- Iridium, used as coating of anodes for electrochemical processes and as a chemical catalyst
- Lanthanum, used to produce catalysts, ceramics, glass, polishing compounds, metallurgy, and batteries
- Lithium, used for rechargeable batteries
- Lutetium, used in scintillators for medical imaging, electronics, and some cancer therapies
- Magnesium, used as an alloy and for reducing metals
- Manganese, used in steelmaking and batteries
- Neodymium, used in permanent magnets, rubber catalysts, and in medical and industrial lasers
- Nickel, used to make stainless steel, superalloys, and rechargeable batteries
- Niobium, used mostly in steel and superalloys
- Palladium, used in catalytic converters and as a catalyst agent
- Platinum, used in catalytic converters
- Praseodymium, used in permanent magnets, batteries, aerospace alloys, ceramics, and colorants
- Rhodium, used in catalytic converters, electrical components, and as a catalyst
- Rubidium, used for research and development in electronics
- Ruthenium, used as catalysts, as well as electrical contacts and chip resistors in computers
- Samarium, used in permanent magnets, as an absorber in nuclear reactors, and in cancer treatments
- Scandium, used for alloys, ceramics, and fuel cells
- Tantalum, used in electronic components, mostly capacitors and in superalloys
- Tellurium, used in solar cells, thermoelectric devices, and as alloying additive
- Terbium, used in permanent magnets, fiber optics, lasers, and solid-state devices
- Thulium, used in various metal alloys and in lasers
- Tin, used as protective coatings and alloys for steel
- Titanium, used as a white pigment or metal alloys
- Tungsten, primarily used to make wear-resistant metals
- Vanadium, primarily used as alloying agent for iron and steel
- Ytterbium, used for catalysts, scintillometers, lasers, and metallurgy
- Yttrium, used for ceramic, catalysts, lasers, metallurgy, and phosphors
- Zinc, primarily used in metallurgy to produce galvanized steel
- Zirconium, used in the high-temperature ceramics and corrosion-resistant alloys.
The USGS delivers unbiased science and information on mineral resource potential, production, consumption, disposal, and how minerals interact with the environment.
The USGS National Minerals Information Center provides the nation with data on domestic and global supply, demand, and trade for minerals and materials.
This information is essential to understand mineral dependencies across economic sectors, forecast potential disruptions to mineral commodity supply, and evaluate the impacts of such disruptions.