America, which was once the world’s superpower in mineral production, is now at least 25 percent import-dependent for nearly three-fourths of important minerals, an R Street Institute study reports. The curtailment of domestic mineral mining now makes the United States dependent on foreign-produced minerals used in everything from cell phones to computers to wind turbines to solar panels to electric vehicle batteries. R Street cited data from the U.S. Geological survey in support of its report.
“As recently as 1990, the United States was the world’s largest producer of minerals—a collection of nonfuel resources that are the building blocks of today’s technologies,” according to R Street. “In the ensuing decades, quite a different trend has emerged. Of 88 mineral commodities tracked by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the United States is more than 25 percent import-dependent for 62 of them.”
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“Minerals are a fundamental building block to economic prosperity,” R Street observes. “The industries that rely on minerals, including construction and manufacturing, contributed $2.78 trillion to the domestic economy, nearly 15 percent of gross domestic product. On this basis alone, declining minerals production and processing should be concerning. But it is the types of manufactured goods that rely on minerals that make import-dependency of significant consequence.”
“The broad term ‘minerals’ captures a variety of elemental metals and compounds with unique and varied properties,” R Street explained. “Collectively, minerals are essential to the manufacture of energy equipment, medical devices, electronics, agricultural products, household items and a range of goods essential to the national defense. Some minerals are so necessary to military operations that the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency maintains 37 mineral commodities as part of the U.S. National Defense Stockpile.”
R Street noted a significant decline in domestic mineral mining as an important factor in America’s growing dependency on imported minerals.
The R Street study, “Embarrassment of Riches: Reversing U.S. Minerals Import Dependency,” comes at a critical time for U.S. mining policy. The Trump administration Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering the Obama administration’s summary rejection of the Pebble Group’s proposal to mine gold, copper, molybdenum, and other minerals at a small but mineral-dense site in southwest Alaska. As noted in Forbes.com, the Pebble Group’s site is the most valuable undeveloped mining site in the world. By itself, the Pebble mine would increase U.S. copper production by 20 percent.