Heavy mineral beach placer deposits with rip-up clasts in the Upper Cretaceous Fox Hills Sandstone, Elbert County, Colorado, May 2019. Photo credit: Mike O'Keeffe for the CGS.

Strategic and Critical Minerals

Strategic minerals are commodities essential to national defense for which the supply during war is wholly, or in part, dependent upon sources outside the boundaries of the U.S. Because these resources would be difficult to obtain, strict measures controlling conservation and distribution are necessary. Critical minerals, on the other hand, although essential to the national defense, are less difficult to procure during wartime because they can either be produced in the U.S. or obtained in adequate quantities from reliable foreign sources. Some conservation of critical minerals may be necessary for nondefense uses. Usually a chronic domestic shortage exists for strategic minerals; potential economic reserves may or may not exist. Potential economic reserves of critical minerals may be relatively abundant, but the U.S. may rely heavily on foreign sources of raw ore simply because of economic, social, environmental, or political reasons.

Historic strategic mineral occurrences in Colorado are discussed in IS-17 Geology and Resource Potential of Strategic Minerals in Colorado. However, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) updated the list of critical minerals in 2018 and is developing a strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on these resources. This includes identifying areas that host critical minerals and improving geologic and geophysical mapping in these areas. The CGS is currently working with the USGS to determine priority areas that may contain potential resources of critical minerals in Colorado.