Mineral Import Reliance on the Rise

Posted on February 16, 2017 by Minerals Make Life

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released its 2017 Minerals Commodity Summaries, and the news isn’t good. According to the report, U.S. mineral import reliance increased in 2016. The U.S. is now 100 percent import reliant on 20 minerals—up from 19 last year—and more than 50 percent import reliant on an additional 30 minerals.

Meanwhile, the report reveals that U.S. metal mine production value decreased by five percent in 2016. This is particularly concerning because the metals listed on the high import reliance list include silver, zinc and platinum—all mineral resources that can be found within the U.S.

Here is a snapshot of these metals and their current U.S. production status:

  • Silver
    • The U.S. produced 1,100 tons of silver, with an estimated worth of $570 million, in 2016 alone. Alaska and Nevada are the top producers of silver.
    • Silver is used to make renewable energy technologies like solar panels and high-tech equipment like cell phones, cameras and plasma TVs. It’s also used to make medical equipment like X-ray machines and defense vehicles like helicopters.
  • Zinc
    • The U.S. mined $1.7 billion worth of zinc in 2016. Zinc is mined in five states throughout the U.S. and there are currently 12 operating zinc mines.
    • Often touted as the key ingredient for summer fun due to its use in sunscreens, zinc is also important to the development of innovative technologies like electric vehicles and solar panels.
  • Platinum
    • The U.S. produced 17,000 KG of platinum, with an estimated worth of $390 million, in 2016. Mining operations are currently active in Montana.
    • Essential to the manufacturing industry, platinum comprises 20 percent of all manufactured goods. Additionally, platinum is used to make transportation technology and the fuel cells that generate power electricity.

Read NMA’s full press release on the USGS report to find out more.

In addition to hurting our vital industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare, mineral import reliance hinders plans to bolster our infrastructure and national highway system. Minerals and metals, such as the ones listed above, are required for every stage of our infrastructure’s development—from making the technologies that build our infrastructure to the actual building blocks of bridges, buildings and roads.

With a $1 trillion-dollar infrastructure plan proposed by President Trump, now is not the time for U.S. minerals development to slow. So why are we still import reliant on key minerals? First, the minerals mine permitting process has duplicative policies that create protracted delays that deter investment and can delay mining projects up to 10 years.

According NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn, “Although we have these minerals and metals in abundance, an inefficient permitting process has slowed access to them and steadily increased our reliance on foreign sources such as China.”

Second, half of the U.S. hardrock mineral resource supply is off-limits due to federal land withdrawals. Exacerbating the issue is a proposed federal land withdrawal of an additional 10 million acres of mineral-rich lands.

It is critical that the new Congress collaborates to improve the broken policies inhibiting timely access to U.S. mineral resources and reverse the trend in our nation’s minerals import reliance.

Learn more about these issues and current mineral mining policies here.

Take a Stand for Miners Today Take Action