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Assessment of critical minerals: updated application of an early-warning screening methodology


  • Erin McCullough

    (National Mineral Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey)

  • Nedal T. Nassar

    (National Mineral Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey)


Increasing reliance on non-renewable mineral resources reinforces the need for identifying potential supply constraints before they occur. The US National Science and Technology Council recently released a report that outlines a methodology for screening potentially critical minerals based on three indicators: supply risk (R), production growth (G), and market dynamics (M). This early-warning screening was initially applied to 78 minerals across the years 1996 to 2013 and identified a subset of minerals as “potentially critical” based on the geometric average of these indicators—designated as criticality potential (C). In this study, the screening methodology has been updated to include data for 2014, as well as to incorporate revisions and modifications to the data, where applicable. Overall, C declined in 2014 for the majority of minerals examined largely due to decreases in production concentration and price volatility. However, the results vary considerably across minerals, with some minerals, such as gallium, recording increases for all three indicators. In addition to assessing magnitudinal changes, this analysis also examines the significance of the change relative to historical variation for each mineral. For example, although mined nickel’s R declined modestly in 2014 in comparison to that of other minerals, it was by far the largest annual change recorded for mined nickel across all years examined and is attributable to Indonesia’s ban on the export of unprocessed minerals. Based on the 2014 results, 20 minerals with the highest C values have been identified for further study including the rare earths, gallium, germanium, rhodium, tantalum, and tungsten.

Suggested Citation

  • Erin McCullough & Nedal T. Nassar, 2017. "Assessment of critical minerals: updated application of an early-warning screening methodology," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 30(3), pages 257-272, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:30:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s13563-017-0119-6
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-017-0119-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Roelich, Katy & Dawson, David A. & Purnell, Phil & Knoeri, Christof & Revell, Ruairi & Busch, Jonathan & Steinberger, Julia K., 2014. "Assessing the dynamic material criticality of infrastructure transitions: A case of low carbon electricity," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 378-386.
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    3. Renaud Coulomb & Simon Dietz & Maria Godunova & Thomas Bligaard Nielsen, 2015. "Critical Minerals Today and in 2030: An Analysis for OECD Countries," OECD Environment Working Papers 91, OECD Publishing.
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    3. Ojiambo N. Malala & Tsuyoshi Adachi, 2022. "Japan’s critical metals in the medium term: a quasi-dynamic approach incorporating probability," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 35(1), pages 87-101, March.
    4. Hayes, Sarah M. & McCullough, Erin A., 2018. "Critical minerals: A review of elemental trends in comprehensive criticality studies," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 192-199.
    5. Brown, Teresa, 2018. "Measurement of mineral supply diversity and its importance in assessing risk and criticality," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 202-218.
    6. Schnebele, Emily & Jaiswal, Kishor & Luco, Nicolas & Nassar, Nedal T., 2019. "Natural hazards and mineral commodity supply: Quantifying risk of earthquake disruption to South American copper supply," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1-1.
    7. Kim, Juhan & Lee, Jungbae & Kim, BumChoong & Kim, Jinsoo, 2019. "Raw material criticality assessment with weighted indicators: An application of fuzzy analytic hierarchy process," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 225-233.
    8. T. E. Graedel & Barbara K. Reck & Alessio Miatto, 2022. "Alloy information helps prioritize material criticality lists," Nature Communications, Nature, vol. 13(1), pages 1-8, December.
    9. Vidal, Rosario & Alberola-Borràs, Jaume-Adrià & Mora-Seró, Iván, 2020. "Abiotic depletion and the potential risk to the supply of cesium," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 68(C).

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    More about this item


    Criticality potential; Risk analysis; Mineral supply chains; Production concentration; Price volatility;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development


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