The value of minerals extracted from American mines fell by three percent in 2015 according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which released its annual minerals commodities summary.
The report found that mines in the United States produced an estimated $78.3 billion worth of raw ore. This is $2.5 billion less than what was produced in 2014. Metals were hit the hardest by the recent slump in commodity prices with a 15 percent decline in value, or $26.6 billion compared to 2014.
The data comes from statistics gathered by the USGS on about 90 mineral commodities considered essential for the U.S. economy and national security.
The report found that the United States is 100 percent reliant on outside sources for critical metals.
Concerns have been raised for years that the United States is too dependent on other countries, namely China, for rare earth elements deemed essential for its aerospace and electronics industries, leading to suggestions that the U.S. create a strategic minerals reserve. However, that plan was scotched with the closure of the only rare earths mine last year in the United States, Molycorp's Mountain Pass facility in California. The mine operated in the red for years and was finally felled by low rare earth prices.
This dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals illustrates both the interdependency of the global community and a growing concern about the adequacy of mineral resources supplies for future generations.
“This dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals illustrates both the interdependency of the global community and a growing concern about the adequacy of mineral resources supplies for future generations. Will our children’s children have the resources they need to live the lives that we all want?” asked Larry Meinert, mineral resources program coordinator with USGS.
One bright spot in the report was industrial commodities, whose mined values gained due to higher construction spending. The USGS says the estimated value of U.S. industrial minerals production, including aggregates, was $51.7 billion, or 4 percent more than the value in 2014.
In 2015, 14 states each produced more than $2 billion worth of nonfuel mineral commodities. These states were, in descending order of value—Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Alaska, Utah, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming, and Illinois. Wisconsin and Illinois are new to the list in 2015.