February 11, 2015
As February marks National American Heart Month, we’d lik...
The largest, most significant technological innovations depend on minerals. Take beryllium, for example, which has properties that help advance and improve nearly every modern American industry. In 2015, the U.S. produced 275 tons of beryllium, 92% of the world’s beryllium resources mined that year. In the U.S., the majority of domestic produced beryllium is found in Utah, but reserves can also be found in Alaska.
Because of its low density, beryllium is lightweight and pliable. In fact, it is lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel, making it perfectly suited for alloys used in the manufacture of armored vehicles, aircraft, spacecraft and other defense systems. It also used in surveillance technology that can detect and destroy improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and tactical minefields. Beryllium is so essential to national security that the U.S. Department of Defense considers beryllium a strategic and critical material.
Beryllium is ideal for defense and civilian technology because it conducts electricity efficiently and has a very high melting point. In addition to its resilience and durability, beryllium allows for greater electrical conductivity and is corrosion-resistant, which helps communications systems like telephones, computers and vehicle safety devices transmit information quickly.
These properties also have significant benefits for medical technology. Beryllium can lower radiation doses in X-rays, CT scanners and mammograms. It is also used in blood test equipment that improves the accuracy and efficiency in the diagnoses of diseases like AIDS.
While this domestically mined mineral supports the U.S. defense, technology and medical sectors, there is still an estimated $6.2 trillion worth of untapped mineral resources in the U.S. that could also contribute to the economy and the American quality of life. However, a duplicative and lengthy mine permitting process is inhibiting the nation’s access to this mineral resource supply. As a result, despite being home to world-class mineral reserves, the U.S. is 50 percent or more import-reliant on 43 key minerals and metals. But the good news is lawmakers are working together to conference House and Senate-passed legislation designed to reform the mine permitting process and ensure timely access to important minerals like beryllium.