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Minerals, Critical Minerals, and the U.S. Economy
the Information Age, developments in materials science and engineering, mineral exploration, and processing continue to enable and support the development of new technologies. The unique properties of nonfuel minerals, mineral products, metals, and alloys contribute to provision of food, shelter, infrastructure, transportation, communications, health care, and defense. The cellular telephone is one familiar example that illustrates the dependence of a globally important technology on minerals, their chemical and physical properties, and the materials created with them (Box 1.1).
Products depend on essential nonfuel minerals and mineral products the supply of which is sometimes subject to disruption or restriction. In the short or medium term (a few months to a decade), the balance between demand and supply often is fragile and prices may thus be volatile. Over the longer term (more than about 10 years), the availability of nonfuel minerals and mineral products depends heavily on investments in people and technology. Insufficient investment today can lead to restrictions on availability in the future.
This study was undertaken to investigate and highlight both the importance of nonfuel minerals and mineral products in modern U.S. society and the extent to which the availability of these minerals and mineral products is subject to restriction in both the short to medium terms and the long term.
BACKGROUND OF STUDY AND COMMITTEE CHARGE
This study was an outgrowth of meeting discussions and professional exchanges during the past several years conducted by the Committee on Earth Resources (CER) of the National Research Council (NRC) on the topic of nonfuel minerals, their availability and use in domestic applications, and their continued 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, and that federal responsibilities to acquire and disseminate information and conduct research on nonfuel minerals were not well defined in a