Without much fanfare, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries report at the end of January. Followers of ARPN will know that we usually await the release of said study with somewhat bated breath. However, this year was slightly different, as the context in which to embed this year’s report has changed.
According to the report, the total value U.S. non-fuel mineral resource production increased by six percent over 2016 in 2017 and now stands at an estimated $75.3 billion.
On the resource dependency front, the findings of the report do not differ much from last year’s. The number of non-fuel minerals for which the United States is 100% import dependent went from 20 to 21, but that increase is due to the inclusion of a new material, Nepheline Syenite, into the scope of the USGS survey. And just like in 2016, the U.S. was more than 50% import-dependent for 50 metals.
What has changed over last year, however, is the overall policy environment.
With the issuing of last December’s executive order to promote domestic mineral resource production, which also calls on the Secretary of the Interior to devise a comprehensive mineral resource strategy, we have taken an important step towards alleviating our long-standing – and in many cases unnecessary over-reliance on foreign sources of supply.
For good reason. Resource dependency figures may not have increased since last year, but from a historical perspective – as USGS pointed out in its landmark Professional Paper 1802 released in December of last year – the number of 100 percent import-reliant minerals has increased from just 11 commodities in 1984.
So while this year’s Mineral Commodity Summaries may not hold too many news – but the report serves as a critical reminder of how important it is to keep the momentum generated at the end of the last year going. Stakeholders must ensure that we get the development of a “comprehensive federal action plan to encourage domestic resource production, through mining, recycling and reclamation” right.
If we do, we will be better off as a nation – both in terms of national security and economic well-being.