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China Dominates the Supply of U.S. Critical Minerals List

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See this visualization first on the Voronoi app.

A bar chart showing China’s share of U.S. imports on the country's critical minerals list.

China Dominates the Supply of U.S. Critical Minerals List

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Most countries have, for many decades, kept a record of their own critical minerals list.

For example, the U.S., drew up a list of “war minerals” during World War I, containing important minerals which could not be found and produced in abundance domestically. They included: tin, nickel, platinum, nitrates and potash.

Since then, as the economy has grown and innovated, critical mineral lists have expanded considerably. 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., whose supply chains are vulnerable to disruption.” — Energy Act, 2020.

Currently there are 50 entries on this list and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that China is the leading producer for 30 of them. From USGS data, we visualize China’s share of U.S. imports for 10 critical minerals.

What Key Critical Minerals Does the U.S. Import From China?

The U.S. is 100% import-reliant for its supply of yttrium, with China responsible for 94% of U.S. imports of the metal from 2018 to 2021.

A soft silvery metal, yttrium is used as an additive for alloys, making microwave filters for radars, and as a catalyst in ethylene polymerization—a key process in making certain kinds of plastic.

China is a major supplier of the following listed critical minerals to the U.S.

Critical MineralChina's Share
of U.S. Imports
U.S. Imports (Tonnes)Uses
Yttrium94%1,000Catalyst, Microwave filters
Rare Earths74%11,940Smartphones, Cameras
Bismuth65%2,800Metallurgy
Antimony63%25,590Batteries
Arsenic57%5,400Semiconductors
Germanium54%29,000Chips, Fiber optics
Gallium53%12,000Chips, Fiber optics
Barite38%2,300Hydrocarbon production
Graphite (natural)33%82,000Batteries, Lubricants
Tungsten29%14,000Metallurgy

Note: China’s share of U.S. critical minerals imports is based on average imports from 2018 to 2021.

Meanwhile, the U.S. also imports nearly three-quarters of its rare earth compounds and metals demand from China. Rare earth elements—so called since they are not found in easily-mined, concentrated clusters—are a collection of 15 elements on the periodic table, known as the lanthanide series.

ℹ️ Yttrium and scandium exhibit similar rare-earth properties, and are found in the same ore bodies. They are often grouped together with the lanthanide series.

Rare earths are used in smartphones, cameras, hard disks, and LEDs but also, crucially, in the clean energy and defense industries.

Does China’s Dominance of U.S. Critical Minerals Supply Matter?

The USGS estimates that China could potentially disrupt the global rare earth oxide supply by cutting off 40–50% production, impacting suppliers of advanced components used in U.S. defense systems.

A version of this sort of trade warfare is already playing out. Earlier this year, China implemented export controls on germanium and gallium. The U.S. relies on China for around 54% of its demand for both minerals, used for producing chips, solar panels, and fiber optics.

China’s controls were seen as a retaliation against the U.S. which has restricted the supply of chips, chip design software, and lithography machines to Chinese companies.

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Energy Shift

Ranked: The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

Three countries account for almost 90% of the lithium produced in the world.

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Voronoi graphic showing the top lithium producers in 2023.

The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Three countries—Australia, Chile, and China—accounted for 88% of lithium production in 2023.

In this graphic, we list the world’s leading countries in terms of lithium production. These figures come from the latest USGS publication on lithium statistics (published Jan 2024).

Australia Leads, China Approaches Chile

Australia, the world’s leading producer, extracts lithium directly from hard-rock mines, specifically the mineral spodumene.

The country saw a big jump in output over the last decade. In 2013, Australia produced 13,000 metric tons of lithium, compared to 86,000 metric tons in 2023.

CountryLithium production 2023E (metric tons)
🇦🇺 Australia86,000
🇨🇱 Chile44,000
🇨🇳 China33,000
🇦🇷 Argentina9,600
🇧🇷 Brazil4,900
🇨🇦 Canada3,400
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe3,400
🇵🇹 Portugal380
🌍 World Total184,680

Chile is second in rank but with more modest growth. Chilean production rose from 13,500 metric tons in 2013 to 44,000 metric tons in 2023. Contrary to Australia, the South American country extracts lithium from brine.

China, which also produces lithium from brine, has been approaching Chile over the years. The country increased its domestic production from 4,000 metric tons in 2013 to 33,000 last year.

Chinese companies have also increased their ownership shares in lithium producers around the globe; three Chinese companies are also among the top lithium mining companies. The biggest, Tianqi Lithium, has a significant stake in Greenbushes, the world’s biggest hard-rock lithium mine in Australia.

Argentina, the fourth country on our list, more than tripled its production over the last decade and has received investments from other countries to increase its output.

With all the top producers increasing output to cover the demand from the clean energy industry, especially for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, the lithium market has seen a surplus recently, which caused prices to collapse by more than 80% from a late-2022 record high.

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Energy Shift

Visualizing Copper Production by Country in 2023

Chile and Peru account for one-third of the world’s copper output.

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Voronoi graphic illustrating global copper production in 2023.

Visualizing Copper Production by Country in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Copper is considered an essential metal for the clean energy transition because it is a great conductor of electricity.

As a result, governments around the world have been encouraging the construction of new mines, and mining companies have been seeking new projects and acquiring existing mines to meet the growing demand.

In this graphic, we illustrate global copper production in 2023, based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, as of January 2024.

Most Copper Comes from South America

Chile and Peru account for one-third of the world’s copper output.

CountryRegion2023E Production
(Million tonnes)
🇨🇱 ChileSouth America5.0
🇵🇪 PeruSouth America2.6
🇨🇩 Congo (Kinshasa)Africa2.5
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia1.7
🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America1.1
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope/Asia0.9
🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania0.8
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia0.8
🇿🇲 ZambiaAfrica0.8
🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America0.7
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia0.6
🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America0.5
🇵🇱 PolandEurope0.4
🌍 Rest of World--3.1
World total (rounded)--21.5

Chile is also home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.

Meanwhile, African countries have rapidly increased their production. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, transitioned from being a secondary copper producer in the late 1990s to becoming the third-largest producer by 2023.

Part of the growth in copper mining in Africa is attributed to high investment from China. Chinese mining companies represent 8% of Africa’s total output in the mining sector.

Within its territory, China has also seen a 277% growth in copper production over the last three decades.

In the U.S., Arizona is the leading copper-producing state, accounting for approximately 70% of domestic output. Copper is also mined in Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

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