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Strategic and Critical Minerals

The Presidential Executive Order (E.O.) No. 13817 dated 20 December 2017 and entitled A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, ordered the creation of a critical minerals list as follows:

Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and in consultation with the heads of other relevant executive departments and agencies (agencies), shall publish a list of critical minerals in the Federal Register not later than 60 days after the date of this order, and disseminate such list to the appropriate agencies.

A critical mineral, as identified by the Secretary of the Interior (SI) in coordination with the agencies, was defined as a:

  1. non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the U.S.,
  2. the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption and,
  3. that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for our economy or our national security.

Furthermore, the policy of the federal government is to:

  1. reduce vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of these critical minerals by identifying new sources of critical minerals,
  2. increase the activity of the supply chain at all levels (e.g. exploration, mining, concentration, separation, alloying, recycling, and reprocessing),
  3. ensure that miners and producers have electronic access to advanced topographic, geologic, and geophysical data (to the extent permitted by law, etc.), and
  4. streamline lease and permit processes to expedite the activity of the supply chain for critical minerals at all levels.

E.O. 13817 also requires that within 180 days of publishing a list of critical minerals, a report will be submitted that will provide:

  1. a strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on critical minerals,
  2. plans to improve the mapping of the U.S. and providing accessible electronic data,
  3. a progress assessment toward developing critical mineral recycling, reprocessing, and alternative technologies and,
  4. options for developing critical minerals through investment and trade with U.S. allies and partners.

Pursuant to E.O. 13817, the SI published a draft list of critical minerals in February 2018 consisting of the following 35 minerals or mineral material groups deemed critical by the definition provided above (in alphabetical order):

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 element (REE) group, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium.

This draft list was later confirmed in May 2018 by the SI in the federal register. The USGS, in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), provided the draft critical mineral list, through U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretarial Order No. 3359 (Subject: Critical Mineral Independence and Security). The USGS methodology for determining the draft critical mineral list is documented in USGS Open-File Report 2018-1021 entitled, Draft Critical Mineral List – Summary of Methodology and Background Information – U.S. Geological Survey Technical Input Document in Response to Secretarial Order No. 3359. The USGS notes in this document that the categorization of minerals as critical may change during the course of the review process and is thus provisional.

Minerals containing almost all the elements provided in the critical mineral list occur in Colorado. However, many of these may not occur in sufficient quantities to mine economically. Colorado is a known producer or past producer of many of the minerals/mineral materials provided in the critical minerals list especially (in no particular order) helium, tungsten, uranium, and vanadium. Also, Colorado contains deposits of titanium, REE, lithium, potash, as well as other critical minerals that may be economical to extract. The CGS is currently working on providing more information on critical minerals in Colorado.