America's Dependence on Strategic Minerals
The United States currently relies on many other countries for various strategic minerals, two major areas that will be discussed are Afghanistan in Asia and several African nations. It is important to consider the resources within these regions because of the internal political and economic problems and conflicts the United States has with many of these countries. These conflicts are of great importance when considering the notion that any one of these countries could create a cartel against free trade and thus these countries have the ability to effect supply by restricting the United States access by military or political actions (Bollyn, 1999).
Image taken from Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 2001.
Within the borders of Afghanistan there are approximately 91 minerals, metals and gems. Beryllium and uranium are two of the more important resources due to their rarity and value. Others mineral and elemental resources include gold, silver, copper, chrome, lead, zinc, manganese, iron and nickel. Lapis lazuli, amethyst, beryl, ruby, emerald, sapphire, alabaster, tourmaline, jade, and quartz are just some of the colored gemstones that have been mined in the country for centuries.
Afghanistan had numerous minerals deposits due to the collision of the Indian subcontinent with the Asian continent. When this occurred millions of years ago chemicals from the seas mixed with those from the land and the high pressures of the colliding continents enabled many rare minerals to form (Bollyn, 1999).
The continent of Africa plays a major role in the reliance that the United States has with numerous strategic minerals. This continent ranks first or second worldwide with its concentrations of bauxite, chromium, platinum, diamond, gold, cobalt, and manganese to name a few (Coakley, 1999). There are approximately twenty-four nonfuel minerals and the United States is dependent on twenty-one of these.
For many of these nonfuel minerals African nations are a major source. In 1980, $29 billion worth of nonfuel minerals were imported into the U.S., while it was projected that by 2000 $85 billion worth of goods would be needed (Hagerman, 1984).
Four important minerals that the United States imports vast quantities from African nations include
chromium, cobalt, manganese, and platinum. Each of these will be discussed separately.
Chromium is one of the major elemental resources that the United States depends upon. Chromium is used to make stainless steel, tool steel, and used in high temperature applications. Since 1961, the U.S has been 100% reliable on other nations for chromium. The Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe contain 98% of the world's reserves of this mineral (Mangone, 1984, p. 32).
Cobalt has not been mined in the U.S. since 1971, because the amount that the United States can produce
cannot compete with the price of other countries. Cobalt is primarily used in gas turbines and jet engines.
Zaire, Zambia, Morocco and Botswana contain approximately 52% of the free world's reserves of the mineral (Mangone, 1984, p. 38).
There are no significant ore deposits of manganese in the U.S. available for economic production. Manganese is a highly valuable strategic mineral to the U.S. since it is used to make steel. All of the manganese used by the United States is imported from other countries, and thirty-nine percent from South Africa. Over 75% of the free world reserves come from South Africa and 37% of this is consumed by the world market (Hagerman, 1984).
Platinum is only obtained in the U.S. in trace amounts and therefore, the nation depends 100% on other
countries. South Africa contains 73% of the world reserves of platinum and virtually all of the United States
need is met by this country (Hagerman, 1984).
Limited Supply Conditions
If the amount of certain resources is limited or totally cut off by other countries, the economic and political effects could be highly damaging to the United States. For example, if the amount of chromium imported into the United States were to decrease, few substitutes are available and there are no substitutes for how it is used in the aerospace industry and in defense. In the event that chromium was not imported into the country, certain consumers could limit their usage, however others, primarily the defense industry, would find the loss a hardship. If this were to occur, the United States would have to rely on its stockpiled supply (Coakley, 1999). This would only create a short term solution as the stockpiled amount would only last for about three years. Many other minerals have circumstances similar to chromium, and certain industries would be forced to either limit their usage of a particular mineral or locate a suitable substitute or replacement.
However, not all industries have substitutes and this is why it is so important that relations with other countries stay somewhat positive so that resources are not cut off from the United States.
Future Demands for Strategic Minerals
As the population of the United States continues to grow, so does the demands for strategic minerals.
If relations with other countries become unfavorable or resources run out, the United States government knows that they need to be ready. Thus, the Stock Piling Act was set up by Congress to serve the interest of national defense. Stockpiling is not to be used for economic or budgetary purposes and the amount held in the stockpile should not be less than three years. To ensure future needs of strategic minerals the U.S. not only have stockpiles set up, but in 1982 President Reagan wrote the National Materials and Minerals Program Plan and Report. In this report, President Reagan stated to decrease the vulnerability of the United States, more must be done within the U.S. borders to ensure the future of many resources. Thus, he saw the need for increased availability of lands for exploration and development, and a multiple use plan was granted. Stockpiling will be increased and an exchange or barter program was enacted for certain minerals to ensure high quality and quantities needed for the stockpile; the report called for encouraging private sector materials research and development also (Mangone, 1984, p. 61-65).
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The United States relies on various countries for many different types of resources
such as oil, chromium, platinum, gold and diamonds. It does not seem that there
will ever be a time when the U.S. will not depend upon other countries for certain resources.
Yet, ways to ensure that the welfare of the nation is not jeopardized include having adequate
stockpiles, using strategic goods responsibly, and making sure that relations with foreign
countries remain favorable.
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Davidson, D. (2000). Critical and Strategic Minerals. Environmental Science in Action. World Wide Web URL: http://www.environmentaleducationohio.org/Case%20Studies/minerals.html. Retrieved on 17 November, 2002.
Better Business Bureau Awareness (1994). Strategic Minerals. Publication # 158. World Wide Web URL: http://www.bbbsilicon.org/topic158.html/. Retrieved on 17 November, 2002.
USGS. (2002). Minerals Information. World Wide Web URL: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/. Retrieved on 17 November, 2002.
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Bollyn, Christopher. (1999). Mineral-Rich Afghanistan a Valuable Corporate Property.
American Free Press. World Wide Web URL:
http://www.americanfreepress.net/NWO/Mineral-Rich_Afghanistan_a_Val/mineral-rich_afghanistan_a_val.html. Retrieved 10 November, 2002.
Coakley, G. J. and Mobbs, P. M. (1999). The Mineral Industries of Africa World Wide Web URL:
http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/1999/africa99.pdf. Retrieved 10 November, 2002.
Mangone, G. J. (1984). American Strategic Minerals New York: Crane Russak & Company.
Hagerman, R.A. (April, 1984). U.S. Reliance on Africa for Strategic Minerals. United States Marine Crops. World Wide Web URL:
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1984/HRA.htm. Retrieved on 10 November, 2002.
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