Mining consultant and professional engineer Dr. Danny Taylor is an industry expert specializing in mine operation economic analysis.
One of the hot topics over the past several months for the mining industry has been a resurgence of discussions on “Strategic and Critical” minerals. On December 20, 2017, just two days before he signed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” President Donald Trump issued Executive Order No. 13817, “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.”Now this is nothing new.
In the early 1980s, then-Senate Majority Leader Paul Laxalt secured funding for a new 60,000-square-foot building for the Mackay School of Mines (the Laxalt Mineral Research Building) designated to house a Center for the Study of Strategic and Critical Minerals.
This was during the Cold War era, and folks in Washington were very concerned about the U.S. not having access to minerals essential to national defense (Strategic) due to disruptions in import supply lines (Critical). The initial report from the Center identified four mineral groups that met the criteria of Strategic and Critical: platinum group metals, chrome ores, manganese and rare earth elements.
All four were necessary for defense industries, and none was being produced in the U.S. In fact, the principal production for these minerals was either southern Africa or the Soviet Union.
Concern over supply security for minerals dates to the early 1950s when the ramifications of the impacts of the Cold War on global economic activity were being realized, and the impact of U.S. reliance on foreign sources of supply in the post-World War II era became part of our national security policy.
By 1954, net import reliance (defined as the amount of imported material, including changes in stocks, minus exports and expressed as a percentage of domestic consumption) was recognized as an important factor in global economic success.