US rare earths production up 44% in 2019 — report

Rare earth minerals are used in everything from consumer electronics to military equipment such as jet engines, missile guidance systems satellites and lasers.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) announced Thursday that US mines produced approximately $86.3 billion in minerals in 2019 – more than $2 billion higher than revised 2018 production totals. 

US metal mine production in 2019 was estimated to be $28.1 billion, or almost $500 million higher than in 2018. The principal contributors to the total value of metal mine production in 2018 were gold (32%), copper (28%), iron ore (19%) and zinc (7%). 

US metal mine production in 2019 was estimated to be $28.1 billion, or almost $500 million higher than in 2018

The domestic production of critical rare-earth mineral concentrates increased by 8,000 metric tons (over 44%) in 2019 to 26,000 metric tonnes, making the US the largest producer of rare earth mineral concentrates outside of China. 

The 43rd annual Mineral Commodity Summaries report from the USGS National Minerals Information Center is the earliest comprehensive source of 2019 world mineral production data for the world.  

“The data we are releasing today is vital to understanding which minerals are vulnerable to disruptions in America’s supply chains and provides the analytical foundation for President Trump’s broader strategy to make our economy and defense more secure,” USGS Director Jim Reilly said in a media statement. 

The steel, aerospace and electronics industries processed nonfuel mineral materials creating an estimated $3.13 trillion in value-added products in 2019, which represents a 2.5% increase over 2018.   

Foreign dependence continues

The US continues to rely on foreign sources for some raw and processed mineral materials. In 2019, imports made up more than one-half of US apparent consumption for 46 nonfuel mineral commodities, and the US was 100% net import reliant for 17 of those. 

For 2019, critical minerals as defined by President Trump’s Executive Order 13817 comprised 14 of the 17 mineral commodities with 100% net import reliance and 17 additional critical mineral commodities had a net import reliance greater than 50% of apparent consumption. The largest number of nonfuel mineral commodities were supplied to the US from China, followed by Canada. 

The Trump administration released “A Federal Strategy to Ensure a Reliable Supply of Critical Minerals,” last year. The strategy directed the US Department of the Interior to locate domestic supplies of critical minerals, ensure access to information necessary for the study and production of minerals and expedite permitting for minerals projects.  

USGS said it will conduct at least one multi-commodity critical mineral resource assessment every two years, supplying the results to federal land managers and the public. 

Source: USGS mineral commodity summaries report 2019

The $86.3 billion worth of non-fuel minerals produced by US mines in 2019 comprised industrial minerals, which includes natural aggregates as well as ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

The estimated value of US industrial minerals production in 2019 was $58.2 billion, about 3% more than that of 2018.

US production of 13 mineral commodities was valued at more than $1 billion each in 2019. These were, in decreasing order of value: crushed stone, cement, construction sand and gravel, gold, copper, industrial sand and gravel, iron ore, lime, salt, zinc, soda ash, phosphate rock and molybdenum concentrates. 

In 2019, 13 states each produced more than $2 billion worth of nonfuel mineral commodities. The states were, ranked in descending order of production value: Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, California, Florida, Utah, Alaska, Missouri, Michigan, Wyoming, Georgia and Pennsylvania. 

The report found that vanadium was produced in Utah for the first time since 2013, and of the $36.1 billion of domestically recycled products, iron and steel scrap contributed $17.6 billion.  

Read the full report here