The Bottom Line on Mineral Uses - Here on Top!
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Below are a limited set of resources suitable for making shorter assignments from which students extend their knowledge of minerals from identification to uses. Check out examples in Activities.
Bottom Line: A knowledge broader than the names of minerals connects students to materials in their everyday lives. Explore these resources for many rich connections minerals make.
Errors/Suggestions: Contact Scott Brande (see footer).
Mineral Resources and Reserves
Mineral resources and reserves are defined differently by the United States Geological Survey.
mineral resource - A concentration of naturally occurring solid, liquid, or gaseous material in or on the Earth’s crust in such form and amount that economic extraction of a commodity from the concentration is currently or potentially feasible.
mineral reserve - That portion of identified mineral resources which could be economically extracted or produced at the time of determination.
In short, mineral resources include all materials in the earth, including those discovered and only inferred, that have present or anticipated future value. Reserves are a only a subset of the resources which can be extracted economically. Materials of value are a fundamental component of a nation's and the global economy. Read about mineral commodities in another section below.
National Mineral Resources Program
The USGS National Mineral Resources website hosts a diverse collection of resources on minerals, including rare earth materials of importance to the United States and other countries. Check it out for information including data, statistics, research reports, and maps. Click link or image.
Mineral of the Month Archive
Find an archive of monthly mineral stories from Earth Magazine here (click link or image below).
Commodities are materials that flow through a system of markets for which there are buyers and sellers. So mineral commodities are materials mined because of demand that results from manufactured goods that contain materials from minerals. An example is a lithium battery which requires the element lithium extracted largely from evaporating salt-rich brines.
The United States Geological Survey compiles an annual report on non-fuel mineral commodities of importance to the U.S. Government. The USGS describes this report as follows (source).
"Published on an annual basis, this report is the earliest Government publication to furnish estimates covering nonfuel mineral industry data. Data sheets contain information on the domestic industry structure, Government programs, tariffs, and 5-year salient statistics for over 90 individual minerals and materials. "
In alphabetical order, the report covers commodities from "Abrasives" to "Zirconium".
Click for the latest report of the "Mineral Commodities Summary". Or click the image.
Mineral Commodities by State
The earth within each state boundary is composed of soil, rock and minerals that vary in type, abundance, and value. The USGS provides mineral commodity information for all states and territories, from Alabama through Wyoming.
Mineral commodity information for all states and territories here: State Commodity Summaries.
Click image to zoom. Top Five States for Mineral Production, 2016.
In today's world of diverse manufacturing technologies, no one country can mine from within its borders all the minerals needed for its own use and alfor exported goods.
The USGS defines minerals as “Critical” when "(i) a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, (ii) the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and (iii) that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the U.S. economy or national security."
Check out this list of 35 critical mineral commodities designated by the Dept. of the Interior in 2018.
Although the US is a prolific producer of minerals, the US is 100% reliant on imports from foreign countries for over 20 critical mineral commodities.
Map - US > 50% Import Reliance
US Critical Mineral Commodities
" In 2017, the country was 100 percent import-reliant for 21 mineral commodities. For comparison, in 1984, the country was 100 percent import-reliant for just 11 mineral commodities. Furthermore, the country was at least 50 percent import-reliant for 50 mineral commodities in 2017. "
"This dependency of the United States on foreign sources creates the potential for strategic vulnerabilities for the Nation’s economic and national security interests, to adverse foreign government actions, natural disasters, or other events that can disrupt supply of important minerals. "
Critical Minerals in US Navy SEAL Gear
A fascinating look at the US reliance on foreign suppliers for critical minerals in the high tech equipment of US Navy SEAL gear. Check it out.