Comment now on federal minerals list
By Moosetrack Megan

The U.S. Department of the Interior today announced it is seeking public comment by March 19, 2018, on a draft list of minerals considered critical to the economic and national security of the United States.

Why’s the list important to Montana? Exploration is currently continuing on the Montana-Idaho border in the Lemhi Pass region, for rare earth minerals used in cell phones. See the attached graphic from the U.S. Geologic Survey to see how rare those sites are. 

President Donald J. Trump directed the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and in consultation with the heads of other relevant agencies, to publish a list of critical minerals in the Federal Register in Executive Order 13817, which was issued on December 20, 2017. Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey compiled the list—prepared with the Bureau of Land Management’s cooperation— and is seeking comments including the rationale for potential additions or subtractions.

“The work of the USGS is at the heart of our nation’s mission to reduce our vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals,” said Dr. Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. “Any shortage of these resources constitutes a strategic vulnerability for the security and prosperity of the United States.”

The draft list of minerals that DOI published today as critical to the United States includes 35 mineral commodities, such as aluminum—used in almost all sectors of the economy; the platinum group metals—used for catalytic agents; rare-earth elements—used in batteries and electronics; tin—used as protective coatings and alloys for steel; and titanium—overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or as a metal alloy. A full list of the 35 mineral commodities follows.

Under the Executive Order, a “critical mineral” is a mineral identified to be a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be submitted before March 19, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments online at:

  • by entering “DOI-2018-0001” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or
  • by mail to Critical Minerals List, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Nichols, 202-208-7250, Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to contact Mr. Nichols during normal business hours. The FRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question with this individual. You will receive a reply during normal business hours. Normal business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for Federal holidays.

The full list of critical minerals includes the following—click a mineral’s name to find relevant statistics and publications:

  • Aluminum (bauxite), used in almost all sectors of the economy
  • Antimony, used in batteries and flame retardants
  • Arsenic, used in lumber preservatives, pesticides, and semi-conductors
  • Barite, used in cement and petroleum industries
  • Beryllium, used as an alloying agent in aerospace and defense industries
  • Bismuth, used in medical and atomic research
  • Cesium, used in research and development
  • Chromium, used primarily in stainless steel and other alloys
  • Cobalt, used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys
  • Fluorspar, used in the manufacture of aluminum, gasoline, and uranium fuel
  • Gallium, used for integrated circuits and optical devices like LEDs
  • Germanium, used for fiber optics and night vision applications
  • Graphite (natural), used for lubricants, batteries, and fuel cells
  • Hafnium, used for nuclear control rods, alloys, and high-temperature ceramics
  • Helium, used for MRIs, lifting agent, and research
  • Indium, mostly used in LCD screens
  • Lithium, used primarily for batteries
  • Magnesium, used in furnace linings for manufacturing steel and ceramics
  • Manganese, used in steelmaking
  • Niobium, used mostly in steel alloys
  • Platinum group metals, used for catalytic agents
  • Potash, primarily used as a fertilizer
  • Rare earth elements group, primarily used in batteries and electronics
  • Rhenium, used for lead-free gasoline and superalloys
  • Rubidium, used for research and development in electronics
  • Scandium, used for alloys and fuel cells
  • Strontium, used for pyrotechnics and ceramic magnets
  • Tantalum, used in electronic components, mostly capacitors
  • Tellurium, used in steelmaking and solar cells
  • Tin, used as protective coatings and alloys for steel
  • Titanium, overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or metal alloys
  • Tungsten, primarily used to make wear-resistant metals
  • Uranium, mostly used for nuclear fuel
  • Vanadium, primarily used for titanium alloys
  • Zirconium, used in the high-temperature ceramics industries