Visualizing the 50 Minerals Critical to U.S. Security
Connect with us


The 50 Minerals Critical to U.S. Security



Subscribe to the Elements free mailing list for more like this


Can I share this graphic?
Yes. Visualizations are free to share and post in their original form across the web—even for publishers. Please link back to this page and attribute Visual Capitalist.
When do I need a license?
Licenses are required for some commercial uses, translations, or layout modifications. You can even whitelabel our visualizations. Explore your options .
Interested in this piece?
Click here to license this visualization.

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.

Mineral Example Uses Net Import Reliance
Beryllium Alloying agent in aerospace, defense industries 11%
Aluminum Power lines, construction, electronics 13%
Zirconium High-temparature ceramics production 25%
Palladium Catalytic converters 40%
Germanium Fiber optics, night vision applications 50%
Lithium Rechargeable batteries 50%
Magnesium Alloys, electronics 50%
Nickel Stainless steel, rechargeable batteries 50%
Tungsten Wear-resistant metals 50%
Barite Hydrocarbon production 75%
Chromium Stainless steel 75%
Tin Coatings, alloys for steel 75%
Cobalt Rechargeable batteries, superalloys 76%
Platinum Catalytic converters 79%
Antimony Lead-acid batteries, flame retardants 81%
Zinc Metallurgy to produce galvanized steel 83%
Titanium White pigment, metal alloys 88%
Bismuth Medical, atomic research 94%
Tellurium Solar cells, thermoelectric devices 95%
Vanadium Alloying agent for iron and steel 96%
Arsenic Semi-conductors, lumber preservatives, pesticides 100%
Cerium Catalytic converters, ceramics, glass, metallurgy 100%
Cesium Research, development 100%
Dysprosium Data storage devices, lasers 100%
Erbium Fiber optics, optical amplifiers, lasers 100%
Europium Phosphors, nuclear control rods 100%
Fluorspar Manufacture of aluminum, cement, steel, gasoline 100%
Gadolinium Medical imaging, steelmaking 100%
Gallium Integrated circuits, LEDs 100%
Graphite Lubricants, batteries 100%
Holmium Permanent magnets, nuclear control rods 100%
Indium Liquid crystal display screens 100%
Lanthanum Catalysts, ceramics, glass, polishing compounds 100%
Lutetium Scintillators for medical imaging, cancer therapies 100%
Manganese Steelmaking, batteries 100%
Neodymium Rubber catalysts, medical, industrial lasers 100%
Niobium Steel, superalloys 100%
Praseodymium Permanent magnets, batteries, aerospace alloys 100%
Rubidium Research, development in electronics 100%
Samarium Cancer treatment, absorber in nuclear reactors 100%
Scandium Alloys, ceramics, fuel cells 100%
Tantalum Electronic components, superalloys 100%
Terbium Permanent magnets, fiber optics, lasers 100%
Thulium Metal alloys, lasers 100%
Ytterbium Catalysts, scintillometers, lasers, metallurgy 100%
Yttrium Ceramic, catalysts, lasers, metallurgy, phosphors 100%
Iridium Coating of anodes for electrochemical processes No data available
Rhodium Catalytic converters, electrical components No data available
Ruthenium Electrical contacts, chip resistors in computers No data available
Hafnium Nuclear control rods, alloys Net exporter

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.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments


Visualizing Asia’s Dominance in the Titanium Supply Chain

The global titanium supply chain is heavily dependent on Asian countries, including China. See where titanium comes from in this infographic.



titanium supply chain
The following content is sponsored by IperionX
titanium supply chain infographic

Asia’s Dominance in the Titanium Supply Chain

Titanium is a unique metal with important applications in defense, aerospace, automotives, and medicine.

But before making it into all its end uses, titanium goes through a complex supply chain that involves both geopolitical and environmental challenges.

This infographic sponsored by IperionX explores the titanium supply chain and highlights the countries that dominate it.

The Stages of Titanium Production

Titanium’s end-to-end production process typically involves five steps:

  1. Mineral extraction
    The minerals ilmenite and rutile are the primary feedstocks for titanium production. These minerals are partly composed of titanium dioxide, which is later refined into titanium metal.
  1. Sponge metal production
    Ilmenite and rutile are refined into titanium sponge using the Kroll refining process.
  2. Ingots and melted products
    Titanium sponge is melted into ingots and other melted products.
  3. Mill products
    Finished products like bars, sheets, and tubes are manufactured from ingots. This process typically generates large amounts of machining scrap.
  4. Scrap
    Scrap or waste accounts for large material losses in the supply chain. The current scrap recirculation rate is less than 70%.

The Kroll process of refining titanium minerals to produce sponge metal is an 80-year-old method that involves high energy use and carbon emissions. It’s also heavily dependent on a few countries, primarily in Asia.

The Titanium Supply Chain

The mineral ilmenite accounts for 90% of all titanium mineral consumption. The other feedstock, rutile, is only mined on a small scale.

Here’s a look at the 10 largest ilmenite and rutile producers in 2021:

Country 2021 titanium minerals production
(tonnes of titanium dioxide content)
% of Total
China 🇨🇳 3,400,000 36%
Mozambique 🇲🇿 1,108,000 12%
South Africa 🇿🇦 995,000 10%
Australia 🇦🇺 790,000 8%
Canada 🇨🇦 430,000 5%
Norway 🇳🇴 468,000 5%
Ukraine 🇺🇦 411,000 4%
Senegal 🇸🇳 491,000 5%
Madagascar 🇲🇬 414,000 4%
Kenya 🇰🇪 253,000 3%
Other 🌍 740,000 8%
Total (rounded) 9,500,000 100%

China takes up the lion’s share of titanium mineral production at 36% . It produces three times as much of the minerals as Mozambique, the second-largest producer. Meanwhile, the U.S. is grouped with other countries with just 100,000 tonnes in annual production.

Besides titanium mineral extraction, China also dominates the next stage of the supply chain with 57% of global titanium sponge production:

Country Titanium sponge production (tonnes) % of Total
China 🇨🇳 120,000 57%
Japan 🇯🇵 35,000 17%
Russia 🇷🇺 27,000 13%
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿 16,000 8%
Ukraine 🇺🇦 5,400 3%
Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦 3,700 2%
U.S.* 🇺🇸 500 0.20%
India 🇮🇳 250 0.10%
Total (rounded) 210,000 100%

*Represents production capacity for high purity specialty sponge, not available for commercial applications.

Between 2011 and 2021, China expanded its titanium sponge production capacity by 55% . Over the same period, U.S. production capacity almost declined completely, down 98% .

As a result of the lack of domestic production, the U.S. is now heavily reliant on foreign sources of titanium.

Short Supply: Titanium in the U.S.

Around 90% of U.S. titanium consumption is met by net imports, with most of it coming from Japan.

The U.S. uses titanium metal in various sectors, including defense , aerospace, electronics, and transport. With the demand for titanium projected to grow, a domestic titanium supply chain can help the U.S. become independent of imports.

IperionX is a U.S. metals technology company focused on developing the world’s first 100% recycled, low-cost, low-carbon titanium supply chain.

>>>Interested in learning more about IperionX’s titanium production technology? Click here to learn more now.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

You may also like


Continue Reading