dependence for certain minerals is not in itself a reason for concern. However, import dependence can expose a range of U.S. industries to political, economic, and other risks that vary according to the particular situation. Informed planning to maintain and enhance domestic economic growth requires knowledge of potential restrictions in the supply of nonfuel minerals, as well as the strategies to mitigate the effects of those restrictions.
This study was an outgrowth of discussions during the past several years with the Committee on Earth Resources of the National Research Council (NRC) on the topic of nonfuel minerals, their availability and use in domestic applications, and their national importance in a global mineral market. The committee was concerned that the impacts of potential restrictions on the supply of nonfuel minerals to different sectors of the U.S. economy were not adequately articulated in the national discussion of natural resource use. In addition, federal responsibilities to acquire and disseminate information and conduct research on critical nonfuel minerals were not well defined in a framework that also accounts for the complete, global mineral cycle, from exploration to recycling. Positive response to the committee’s formulation of a study prospectus by several federal agencies and professional organizations, including two of the study’s eventual sponsors, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Mining Association, encouraged the NRC to establish the Committee on Critical Mineral Impacts on the U.S. Economy (Appendix A); this report is the committee’s response to the study’s statement of task (Box S.1).
This report investigates and highlights the importance of nonfuel minerals in modern U.S. society; which minerals might be termed “critical” and why; the extent to which the availability of these minerals is subject to restriction in the short to the long term; and when considering mineral criticality, which data, information, and research are needed to aid decision makers in taking appropriate steps to mitigate restrictions in the nonfuel mineral supply. The audience for the study includes not only federal agencies, industry, and research organizations, but necessarily also the general public and decision makers.
Chapter 1 establishes the basic methodology used by the committee to determine mineral criticality in the framework of a “criticality matrix”