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The 50 Minerals Critical to U.S. Security

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U.S. 50 critical minerals

The 50 Minerals Critical to U.S. Security

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

The U.S. aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 as part of its commitment to tackling climate change, but might be lacking the critical minerals needed to achieve its goals.

The American green economy will rely on renewable sources of energy like wind and solar, along with the electrification of transportation. However, local production of the raw materials necessary to produce these technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, is lacking. Understandably, this has raised concerns in Washington.

In this graphic, based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey, we list all of the minerals that the government has deemed critical to both the economic and national security of the United States.

What are Critical Minerals?

A critical mineral is defined as a non-fuel material considered vital for the economic well-being of the world’s major and emerging economies, whose supply may be at risk. This can be due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, trade policy, or other factors.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of the Interior released a list of 35 critical minerals. The new list, released in February 2022, contains 15 more commodities.

Much of the increase in the new list is the result of splitting the rare earth elements and platinum group elements into individual entries rather than including them as “mineral groups.” In addition, the 2022 list of critical minerals adds nickel and zinc to the list while removing helium, potash, rhenium, and strontium.

The challenge for the U.S. is that the local production of these raw materials is extremely limited.

For instance, in 2021 there was only one operating nickel mine in the country, the Eagle mine in Michigan. The facility ships its concentrates abroad for refining and is scheduled to close in 2025. Likewise, the country only hosted one lithium mine, the Silver Peak Mine in Nevada.

At the same time, most of the country’s supply of critical minerals depends on countries that have historically competed with America.

China’s Dominance in Minerals

Perhaps unsurprisingly, China is the single largest supply source of mineral commodities for the United States.

Cesium, a critical metal used in a wide range of manufacturing, is one example. There are only three pegmatite mines in the world that can produce cesium, and all were controlled by Chinese companies in 2021.

Furthermore, China refines nearly 90% of the world’s rare earths. Despite the name, these elements are abundant on the Earth’s crust and make up the majority of listed critical minerals. They are essential for a variety of products like EVs, advanced ceramics, computers, smartphones, wind turbines, monitors, and fiber optics.

After China, the next largest source of mineral commodities to the United States has been Canada, which provided the United States with 16 different elements in 2021.

The Rising Demand for Critical Minerals

As the world’s clean energy transitions gather pace, demand for critical minerals is expected to grow quickly.

According to the International Energy Association, the rise of low-carbon power generation is projected to triple mineral demand from this sector by 2040.

The shift to a sustainable economy is important, and consequently, securing the critical minerals necessary for it is just as vital.

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Visualizing Global Gold Production in 2023

Gold production in 2023 was led by China, Australia, and Russia, with each outputting over 300 tonnes.

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Graphic breaking down global gold production in 2023

Visualizing Global Gold Production 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.

Over 3,000 tonnes of gold were produced globally in 2023.

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

China, Australia, and Russia Produced the Most Gold in 2023

China was the top producer in 2023, responsible for over 12% of total global production, followed by Australia and Russia.

CountryRegion2023E Production (tonnes)
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia370
🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania310
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope310
🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America200
🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America170
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia130
🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America120
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia110
🇿🇦 South AfricaAfrica100
🇺🇿 UzbekistanAsia100
🇬🇭 GhanaAfrica90
🇵🇪 PeruSouth America90
🇧🇷 BrazilSouth America60
🇧🇫 Burkina FasoAfrica60
🇲🇱 MaliAfrica60
🇹🇿 TanzaniaAfrica60
🌍 Rest of World-700

Gold mines in China are primarily concentrated in eastern provinces such as Shandong, Henan, Fujian, and Liaoning. As of January 2024, China’s gold mine reserves stand at an estimated 3,000 tonnes, representing around 5% of the global total of 59,000 tonnes.

In addition to being the top producer, China emerged as the largest buyer of the yellow metal for the year. In fact, the country’s central bank alone bought 225 tonnes of gold in 2023, according the World Gold Council.

Estimated Global Gold Consumption

Most of the gold produced in 2023 was used in jewelry production, while another significant portion was sold as a store of value, such as in gold bars or coins.

  • Jewelry: 46%
  • Central Banks and Institutions: 23%
  • Physical Bars: 16%
  • Official Coins, Medals, and Imitation Coins: 9%
  • Electrical and Electronics: 5%
  • Other: 1%

According to Fitch Solutions, over the medium term (2023-2032), global gold mine production is expected to grow 15%, as high prices encourage investment and output.

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Real Assets

Charted: The Value Gap Between the Gold Price and Gold Miners

While gold prices hit all-time highs, gold mining stocks have lagged far behind.

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Line chart comparing gold price and gold mining stocks since 2000.

Gold Price vs. Gold Mining Stocks

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

Although the price of gold has reached new record highs in 2024, gold miners are still far from their 2011 peaks.

In this graphic, we illustrate the evolution of gold prices since 2000 compared to the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI), which consists of the largest and most widely held public gold production companies. The data was compiled by Incrementum AG.

Mining Stocks Lag Far Behind

In April 2024, gold reached a new record high as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled policymakers may delay interest rate cuts until clearer signs of declining inflation materialize.

Additionally, with elections occurring in more than 60 countries in 2024 and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, central banks are continuing to buy gold to strengthen their reserves, creating momentum for the metal.

Traditionally known as a hedge against inflation and a safe haven during times of political and economic uncertainty, gold has climbed over 11% so far this year.

According to Business Insider, gold miners experienced their best performance in a year in March 2024. During that month, the gold mining sector outperformed all other U.S. industries, surpassing even the performance of semiconductor stocks.

Still, physical gold has outperformed shares of gold-mining companies over the past three years by one of the largest margins in decades.

YearGold PriceNYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI)
2023$2,062.92$243.31
2022$1,824.32$229.75
2021$1,828.60$258.87
2020$1,895.10$299.64
2019$1,523.00$241.94
2018$1,281.65$160.58
2017$1,296.50$192.31
2016$1,151.70$182.31
2015$1,060.20$111.18
2014$1,199.25$164.03
2013$1,201.50$197.70
2012$1,664.00$444.22
2011$1,574.50$498.73
2010$1,410.25$573.32
2009$1,104.00$429.91
2008$865.00$302.41
2007$836.50$409.37
2006$635.70$338.24
2005$513.00$276.90
2004$438.00$215.33
2003$417.25$242.93
2002$342.75$145.12
2001$276.50$65.20
2000$272.65$40.97

Among the largest companies on the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index, Colorado-based Newmont has experienced a 24% drop in its share price over the past year. Similarly, Canadian Barrick Gold also saw a decline of 6.5% over the past 12 months.

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