Tungsten and Rare Earth Included in US Critical Minerals

The US Department of Energy reports 35 critical minerals to include 8 rare earth elements (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, samarium, europium, terbium and dysprosium), and the elements such as tungsten, lithium, and cobalt, etc.

The United States is heavily reliant on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to the Nation's security and economic prosperity. This dependency of the United States on foreign sources creates a strategic vulnerability for both its economy and military to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster, and other events that can disrupt the supply of these key minerals.

2017 US net import reliance for critical minerals image

According to Executive Order 13817 of December 20, 2017, “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals,” the Secretary of the Interior on February 16, 2018, presented a draft list of 35 mineral commodities deemed critical under the definition provided in the Executive Order. After considering the 453 public comments received, the Department of the Interior believes that the methodology used to draft the list remains valid and hereby finalizes the draft list of 35 key minerals.

The final list includes aluminum (bauxite), antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cesium, chromium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite (natural), hafnium, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, niobium, platinum group metals, potash, the rare earth elements group, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium. This list of critical minerals, while “final,” is not a permanent list, but will be dynamic and updated periodically to reflect current data on supply, demand, and concentration of production, as well as current policy priorities. This final list will serve as the Department of Commerce's initial focus as it develops its report to comply with Section 4 of Executive Order 13817.

“These critical minerals are often overlooked but modern life without them would be impossible,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Through the recommendations detailed in this report, the Federal government will take unprecedented action to ensure that the United States will not be cut off from these vital materials.”

This release follows a previous report from the Department of Interior, also required by the executive order, which designated 35 mineral commodities considered critical to the economic and national security of the United States, including uranium, titanium, and rare earth elements.

These critical minerals are necessary components for countless items relied on by millions of Americans, including smartphones, aircraft, computers, and GPS navigation systems, as well as green technologies such as wind turbines, energy efficient lighting, and hybrid vehicle batteries.

The US issued Executive Order 13817 to reduce vulnerabilities from our nation’s reliance on foreign sources of key minerals and foreign supply chains. Currently, the United States is heavily dependent on imports of key minerals, with the U.S. dependent on imports for more than 50 percent of domestic demand for 29 of the 35 minerals named in Interior’s report. Besides, the United States lacks any domestic production for 14 of the 35 minerals and does not have domestic access to processing and manufacturing capabilities for many of these minerals.

The critical minerals of tungsten and rare earth are significant for the US. This action plan complements other initiatives of the Trump Administration, including the Department of Defense’s response to Executive Order 13806, Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States and the National Science and Technology Council’s Strategy for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing and Charting a Course for Success: America's Strategy for STEM Education.