Macdonald Amoah is a researcher at the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines. Gregory Wischer is principal at Dei Gratia Minerals, a critical minerals consultancy. Juliet Akamboe is a critical minerals demand researcher at the Colorado School of Mines. Morgan Bazilian is director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines.
Minerals have defined key periods in technological development for much of warfare’s history. The Stone Age featured mineral-tipped spears and arrows; the Bronze Age included swords and shields of bronze, a metal alloy of copper and tin; and in the Iron Age, iron replaced bronze in many weapons, making them both lighter and cheaper.
Since then, minerals have remained formative in changing human history—and warfighting. The cheap, mass production of iron was central to the First Industrial Revolution, while steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, was vital to the Second Industrial Revolution. Both periods contributed to the industrialization of war.
Today, minerals still undergird warfighting technology, including defense platforms and munitions. Virtually every US military system requires mineral components, from steel and titanium to graphite composites and cadmium alloys.
Global defense spending shows that military demand is increasing for these platforms, munitions, and thus minerals. Like previous junctions in human history, the current period will be defined by minerals and the warfighting technology that they enable.
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