US considers critical minerals update

Friday, March 2, 2018

The U.S. Department of the Interior has published an updated draft list of minerals considered critical to the nation's economic and national security. The move follows a presidential order calling for revised national strategies for managing critical mineral commodities.

President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13817 on December 20, 2017.
Predicated on a finding that the United States "is heavily reliant on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to the Nation’s security and economic prosperity," the executive order directed the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and in consultation with the heads of other relevant executive departments and agencies, to publish a list of critical minerals, to reduce national vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals, and to develop a strategy to reduce reliance on critical minerals.

The executive order defines “critical mineral” as including (i) non-fuel minerals or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, (ii) the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and (iii) that serve an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for our economy or our national security.

On February 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Interior's U.S. Geological Survey released a draft list of 35 critical minerals, requesting public comment before March 19, 2018. Minerals identified in the draft 2018 list include: aluminum (bauxite), antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismith, cesium, chromium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite (natural), hafnium, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, niobium, platinum group metals, potash, rare earth elements group, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium.

Previous USGS lists of critical minerals have focused on about 23 mineral commodities: antimony, barite, beryllium, cobalt, fluorite or fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite, hafnium, indium, lithium, manganese, niobium, platinum group elements, rare earth elements, rhenium, selenium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, vanadium, and zirconium.

Once the list of critical minerals is finalized, the executive order calls for the Secretary of Commerce, in coordination with other agencies, to submit a report to the President including a strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on critical minerals, an assessment of technologies for recycling and reprocessing critical minerals, a plan to improve mapping to support private sector mineral exploration of critical minerals, and a proposal to streamline regulatory processes.

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