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Global Mapping of Critical Minerals

The periodic table below illustrates the global abundance of critical minerals in the Earth’s crust in parts per million (ppm). Hover over each element to view! Lanthanides and actinides are omitted due to lack of available data.

Data is obtained from the USGS handbook “Critical Mineral Resources of the United States— Economic and Environmental Geology and Prospects for Future Supply.” The code used is found here.

Bokeh Plot

Because these minerals tend to concentrate in specific countries like niobium in Brazil or antimony in China and remain central to many areas of society such as national defense or engineering, governments like the US have come forward with listing these minerals as “critical.”

The abundance across different continents is shown in the map above.

You can find gallium, the most abundant of the critical minerals, in place of aluminum and zinc, elements smaller than gallium. Processing bauxite ore or sphalerite ore (from the sediment-hosted, Mississippi Valley-type and volcanogenic massive sulfide) of zinc yield gallium. The US meets its gallium needs through primary, recycled and refined forms of the element.

German and indium have uses in electronics, flat-panel display screens, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and solar power arrays. China, Belgium, Canada, Japan and South Korea are the main producers of indium while germanium production can be more complicated. In many cases, countries import primary germanium from other ones, such as Canada importing from the US or Finland from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to recover them.

Rechargable battery cathodes and jet aircraft turbine engines make use of cobalt. While the element is the central atom in vitamin B12, excess and overexposure can cause lung and heart dysfunction and dermatitis.

As one of only three countries that processes beryllium into products, the US doesn’t put much time or money into exploring for new deposits within its own borders because a single producer dominates the domestic berllyium market. Beryllium finds uses in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and medical lasers.

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