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The 50 Minerals Critical to U.S. Security

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The 50 Minerals Critical to U.S. Security

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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 UsesNet Import Reliance
BerylliumAlloying agent in aerospace, defense industries 11%
AluminumPower lines, construction, electronics 13%
ZirconiumHigh-temparature ceramics production 25%
PalladiumCatalytic converters40%
GermaniumFiber optics, night vision applications50%
LithiumRechargeable batteries 50%
MagnesiumAlloys, electronics 50%
NickelStainless steel, rechargeable batteries 50%
TungstenWear-resistant metals50%
BariteHydrocarbon production75%
ChromiumStainless steel75%
TinCoatings, alloys for steel 75%
CobaltRechargeable batteries, superalloys76%
PlatinumCatalytic converters 79%
AntimonyLead-acid batteries, flame retardants 81%
ZincMetallurgy to produce galvanized steel 83%
TitaniumWhite pigment, metal alloys88%
BismuthMedical, atomic research 94%
TelluriumSolar cells, thermoelectric devices95%
VanadiumAlloying agent for iron and steel96%
ArsenicSemi-conductors, lumber preservatives, pesticides 100%
CeriumCatalytic converters, ceramics, glass, metallurgy100%
CesiumResearch, development100%
DysprosiumData storage devices, lasers100%
ErbiumFiber optics, optical amplifiers, lasers100%
EuropiumPhosphors, nuclear control rods 100%
FluorsparManufacture of aluminum, cement, steel, gasoline100%
GadoliniumMedical imaging, steelmaking100%
GalliumIntegrated circuits, LEDs100%
GraphiteLubricants, batteries100%
HolmiumPermanent magnets, nuclear control rods100%
IndiumLiquid crystal display screens 100%
LanthanumCatalysts, ceramics, glass, polishing compounds100%
LutetiumScintillators for medical imaging, cancer therapies 100%
ManganeseSteelmaking, batteries 100%
NeodymiumRubber catalysts, medical, industrial lasers 100%
NiobiumSteel, superalloys100%
PraseodymiumPermanent magnets, batteries, aerospace alloys100%
RubidiumResearch, development in electronics 100%
SamariumCancer treatment, absorber in nuclear reactors 100%
ScandiumAlloys, ceramics, fuel cells100%
TantalumElectronic components, superalloys100%
TerbiumPermanent magnets, fiber optics, lasers100%
ThuliumMetal alloys, lasers 100%
YtterbiumCatalysts, scintillometers, lasers, metallurgy 100%
YttriumCeramic, catalysts, lasers, metallurgy, phosphors 100%
IridiumCoating of anodes for electrochemical processesNo data available
RhodiumCatalytic converters, electrical componentsNo data available
RutheniumElectrical contacts, chip resistors in computersNo data available
HafniumNuclear control rods, alloysNet 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.

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Globalization

Top U.S. Food Imports by Origin Country

This infographic shows the top exporting countries for U.S. food imports, ranging from exotic fruits to meat, oils, spices, and more.

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Top U.S. food imports from countries

Top U.S. Food Imports by Origin Country

The U.S. is a major producer and exporter of food products, but did you know that it’s also one of the world’s largest food importers?

Due to seasonality and climate, some foods can’t be grown on home soil, at least enough to fulfill consumption demands. Indeed, many familiar grocery items come from other countries.

This infographic from Julie Peasley uses data from the Chatham House Resource Trade Database (CHRTD) to show where the U.S. gets its food from, highlighting the top exporting countries of various imported food items.

The Types of Imported Foods

The U.S. imported around $148 billion worth of agricultural products in 2020, and according to the USDA, this has since risen to $194 billion in 2022.

Around 50% of all U.S. agricultural imports are horticultural products like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and more. Other large import categories include sugar and tropical products, meat, grains, and oilseeds.

With that context in mind, we break down each category and highlight the five foods with the largest single-origin import value.

Farm Fresh: Fruit and Vegetable Imports

U.S. fruit and vegetable imports have been on a steady rise since 2000. In fact, between 2011 and 2021, fruits and nuts imports made up 44% of domestic consumption, while 35% of vegetables consumed in the U.S. came from outside the country.

Mexico is by far the largest exporter of fruits and vegetables to the United States.

Fruit or VegetableLargest Exporting CountryU.S. Import Value (2020)
Tomatoes🇲🇽 Mexico$2.5B
Avocados🇲🇽 Mexico$2.1B
Peppers🇲🇽 Mexico$1.4B
Bananas🇬🇹 Guatemala$1.0B
Strawberries🇲🇽 Mexico$897M

The U.S. imported $2.5 billion worth of tomatoes from Mexico in 2020, representing 31% of international tomato trade. Avocados, native to central Mexico, were nearly as popular with $2.1 billion worth of imports.

Generally, the largest exporters of fruits and vegetables to the U.S. are North and South American countries, with products often coming from Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil.

Beefed Up: Meat Imports

The U.S. is the world’s largest overall consumer of beef (or bovine meat), and the third-largest per capita consumer at nearly 37.9 kg (84 lbs) per person per year.

Therefore, despite being one of the top producers of beef, the country still imports a lot of it.

MeatLargest Exporting CountryU.S. Import Value (2020)
Bovine Cuts🇨🇦 Canada$1.4B
Bovine Cuts, Frozen🇳🇿 New Zealand$839M
Sheep Meat🇦🇺 Australia$643M
Swine Hams, Shoulders, and Cuts🇨🇦 Canada$559M
Bovine Cuts, Bone In🇲🇽 Mexico$449M

Precisely, The U.S. imported $8.7 billion worth of meat in 2020. Canada was the largest source of imported beef, with the U.S. accounting for more than 70% of all Canadian beef exports.

The sources of meat imports are more geographically diverse than fruits and vegetables, with billions of dollars of imports coming from New Zealand and Australia.

Making Waves: Seafood Imports

Despite plenty of coastlines, the U.S. imports 70–85% of all its seafood and accounted for 15% of global seafood imports in 2020 at $21.8 billion.

Frozen shrimp and prawns were the top seafood import, with $1.9 billion worth from India.

Fish and SeafoodLargest Exporting CountryU.S. Import Value (2020)
Shrimp and Prawns, Frozen🇮🇳 India$1.9B
Fish Fillet or Meat🇨🇱 Chile$1.4B
Fish Fillet or Meat, Frozen🇨🇳 China$884M
Lobsters🇨🇦 Canada$764M
Crabs, Frozen🇨🇦 Canada$719M

The largest source of U.S. seafood imports overall with $3.1 billion total was Canada, which leads in lobster, crab, and whole fish imports. It was followed by Chile at $2.1 billion, primarily for parts of fish (fillet or meat, fresh or chilled).

Other Foods: Oils, Grains, Coffee, and More

There are plenty of other types of foods and agricultural products that the U.S. relies on other countries for. Here are the largest single-origin U.S. food imports for the remaining categories:

FoodCategoryLargest Exporting CountryU.S. Import Value (2020)
Canola Oil, RefinedOils🇨🇦 Canada$1.4B
Coffee, Not RoastedStimulants/Spices🇨🇴 Colombia$1.0B
Cashews, ShelledNuts/Seeds/Beans🇻🇳 Vietnam$960M
Raw Sugar, RefinedSweetners🇲🇽 Mexico$723M
RiceCereals🇹🇭 Thailand$713M
CheeseDairy🇮🇹 Italy$310M

Some of the highest and potentially surprising exports? Imports of refined Canadian canola oil totaled $1.4 billion in 2020, while Vietnam exported a whopping $960 million worth of cashews to America.

A Global Plate: The Diversity of U.S. Food Imports

The amount and value of food imported to the U.S. highlights the diversity of consumer preferences and the importance of global food stocks, considering America is one of the world’s leading food producers.

With countries having to rely on others to satisfy demand for limited production supply or exotic foods, the interconnectedness of the global food system is both vital and delicate.

What’s clear is that the U.S. food plate is indeed a global one, with many foods taking remarkable journeys from farm to fork.

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