OPINION: Producing More Valuable Minerals in the U.S. – by J. Winston Porter (November 20, 2019)


A large majority of important minerals used in America are imported from other countries, but the United States needs to produce more minerals in our country. In addition, now some want to obtain minerals via recycling in America.

Although the idea of recycling has obvious appeal, it simply isn’t easy or inexpensive. As for this issue, about 85 percent of all used automobiles are recycled, providing large quantities of iron and steel. And other recycling comes from scrap lead, copper and aluminum.

But even with significant political and financial incentives, recycling’s contribution to the supply of critically important minerals like indium, manganese, cobalt, cesium and vanadium has not budged. The result is that we are heavily dependent on imports of key minerals from overseas locations.

Consider what has happened to rare earth metals. This group of 17 elements with names like neodymium, promethium and yttrium are found in computer hard drives, electric vehicle batteries and smartphones, among many other commercial products. The unfortunate reality is that there is hardly any recycling of rare earth elements.

But without rare earths, the transition to a greener economy would come to a standstill. Today China dominates the world’s rare earth production and supplies 80 percent of the rare earths imported by the United States. Recycling now barely makes a dent in the nation’s use of our most important minerals, and solution to the growing need for minerals is divorced from economic reality.

For the rest of this column: https://www.insidesources.com/producing-more-valuable-minerals-in-the-u-s/