The 3G Mineral Group Dominated by China and Its Implications for the U.S.

Posted on April 17, 2024 by Minerals Make Life

Late in 2023, China announced export quotas and tariffs on several strategic minerals, notably the 3Gs: graphite, gallium and germanium. These minerals are essential for many high-tech industries such as aerospace, renewable energy and defense. The U.S. relies heavily on China for these minerals, as we currently have no domestic production, posing a severe risk to our economic and national security. China could leverage its advantage to disrupt our supply chains, raise prices or apply geopolitical pressure. Like these 3G minerals, the U.S. is alarmingly import-reliant on China, Russia and other countries for many more minerals. It’s time for America’s policymakers to take urgent action to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of minerals by increasing domestic mining and processing investment.

Learn more about how the 3G minerals make tech, energy and security possible.


Graphite is a form of carbon with excellent conductivity for electrical and thermal applications, resistance to corrosion by earth’s environment and exceptional properties for lubrication. Because of these features, it is widely used in electrical and tech applications from batteries, electrodes and graphene, a material with extraordinary applications in electronics and nanotechnology. China produces about 60 percent of the world’s graphite, estimated at 73 million tons. The U.S. is 100 percent import-reliant on graphite and relies on China, Mexico, Canada and Madagascar to meet its growing demand. Fortunately, one of the largest graphite reserves in the world was recently discovered in Alaska, which, if developed, would be essential for U.S. mineral independence and supply chain security.


Gallium is a metal ideal for high-temperature applications. It is widely used for semiconductors, LEDs, lasers, solar panels and radar systems. When used in solar cells, it improves a solar panel’s performance and extends its life. It is also helpful in pharmaceuticals because it binds to certain types of cells in the body, making it essential for detecting and treating cancer. China has the most significant global reserves, producing about 98 percent of gallium. The U.S. imports 100 percent of its gallium, with 95 percent coming from China. This overwhelming figure leaves America at a dangerous disadvantage.


Germanium is a unique metal with optical and electrical properties, making it useful for fiber optics, infrared devices, solar cells and transistors. It is commonly used in semiconductors, a central issue in the U.S.-China relationship. It is also used in alloys, catalysts and medical equipment. China has the most significant global reserves of germanium and subsequently disseminates most of the world’s resources, of which the U.S. imports 50 percent of our total germanium reserves. U.S. germanium reserves are estimated at 2,500 tons, primarily found in Utah. However, we won’t be able to access them without modernizing and streamlining our outdated permitting processes.

These 3G minerals exemplify the risk the U.S. faces in mineral security. They should be a wake-up call for the U.S. to reduce its reliance on foreign sources of minerals. Without domestic access to these minerals, America’s economic, national and resource security could be at risk. Investing in domestic mining will enhance American competitiveness and innovation and protect our interests and values. Policymakers need to modernize energy permitting processes and empower America’s miners to deliver the essential minerals the U.S. needs.

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