Just how many minerals does the U.S. consume? In 2020, non-fuel mineral consumption worked out to around 19,000 pounds or 8.6 tonnes per person.
This includes metals like copper, iron ore, and zinc, along with construction sand, stone, cement, and other industrial minerals. With such high demand, changes in the production of these commodities often reflect how the overall economy is performing.
The above infographic maps U.S. non-fuel mineral production by state in 2021 using data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
As the U.S. economy restarted in 2021, American mines generated over $90 billion in non-fuel mineral production, a 12% increase from 2020.
Before diving into the breakdown by state, here’s a look at production value by mineral type:
Each of the categories accounted for roughly one-third of the total production value, with metals making up the largest share. Within metals, copper and gold collectively accounted for 66% of the total, followed by iron ore (13%) and zinc (7%).
The production of sand, gravel, and crushed stone—important inputs for construction—also made up a significant chunk of the value, along with other industrial minerals. Furthermore, crushed stone was the leading non-fuel mineral in 2021, with $19.3 billion in production value.
Arizona, Nevada, Texas, California, and Minnesota—the top five states—accounted for nearly 40% of non-fuel mineral production value.
Arizona and Nevada, the top two states, are the country’s biggest producers of copper and gold, respectively. Arizona also produced over $1 billion worth of construction sand and gravel in 2021, in addition to being the country’s leading producer of gemstones.
In third place was Texas, where mines produced nearly $6 billion worth of non-fuel minerals, of which 38% came from crushed stone. California, meanwhile, led in the production of construction sand and gravel, and was the country’s sole source of rare earth elements.
Minnesota also made the top five as the nation’s largest producer of iron ore. In fact, mines in Minnesota and Michigan shipped 98% of domestic usable iron ore products in 2021.
Although the U.S. is a major producer of non-fuel minerals, it still relies on imports for the supply of several minerals.
In 2021, the U.S. imported $5.3 billion worth of raw materials, in addition to $90 billion in net imports of processed mineral materials. Of the 50 minerals deemed critical to national security, the country was 100% net import reliant for 26, including graphite, manganese, and several rare earth metals.
To meet the rising demand for these minerals, U.S. President Biden announced major investments in domestic critical mineral production, including a $35 million grant to MP Materials for the processing of rare earths.
It remains to be seen whether these investments will pay off in building more resilient, end-to-end domestic critical mineral supply chains.
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This graphic visualizes Ukraine’s top international trading partners and the country’s most exported and imported products in 2020.
International trade was equal to 65% of Ukraine’s GDP in 2020, totaling to $102.9 billion of goods exchanged with countries around the world.
In 2014, Russia’s annexation of Crimea contributed to a 30% year-over-year drop in Ukraine’s 2015 trade value ($75.6B). Now, Ukraine’s international trade has been irreversibly disrupted since Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24th, 2022.
The current conflict continues to reshape geopolitical relations and international trade—and to give context to the situation, we’ve created this graphic using IMF and UN Comtrade data to showcase Ukraine’s largest trading partners and goods traded in 2020.
Ukraine’s largest trading partner in 2020 was China, with the value of trade between the two countries reaching $15.3 billion, more than double the value of any other trading partner.
Germany ($7.4B), Poland ($7.4B), and Russia ($7.2B) were Ukraine’s next three largest trading partners, with the majority of Ukraine’s trade with these countries being imports.
While most of Ukraine’s trade with top partners is made up of imports, trade with both India and the Netherlands (Ukraine’s ninth and tenth largest trading partners respectively) was more export driven, with exports holding a greater than 70% share of total trade value.
Ukraine’s strong agricultural industry makes up a large share of the country’s exports in the form of cereals, animal and vegetable oils, and seed oils. These products made up nearly 35% of Ukraine’s exports in 2020, at a value of $17 billion collectively.
Source: UN Comtrade
The other two cornerstones of Ukraine’s industry and exports are iron ore and steel, along with refined electrical machinery, equipment, and other mechanical appliances. In 2020, exports of crude iron and steel along with their refined products made up $13 billion in value, making up more than a quarter of Ukraine’s exports.
Ukraine’s imports are primarily vehicles, machinery, and the fuels necessary to power these goods. With the country’s energy consumption outpacing domestic energy production, mineral fuels and oils are Ukraine’s top import in 2020 at $7.42 billion.
Source: UN Comtrade
Primarily importing from Belarus, Russia, and Germany, Ukraine’s need for energy fuels was greatly exacerbated by Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, which held 80% of Ukraine’s oil and natural gas deposits in the Black Sea.
Various kinds of machinery, vehicles, and electrical equipment are the next largest categories of goods imported, cumulatively making up 31% ($17.1B) of Ukraine’s imports.
Since its independence from the former USSR in 1991, Ukraine has steadily shifted towards Western trading partners, especially as conflicts with Russia escalated in the 2010s.
After years of negotiations, Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU in 2014 facilitated free trade between EU nations and Ukraine, reducing the country’s dependence on trade with Russia.
Ukraine is one of the most important economic centers of the former Soviet Union, and it had long been the breadbasket of the USSR thanks to its fertile chernozem soil and strong agricultural industry.
Trade value between Russia and Ukraine peaked in 2011 at $49.2 billion, and since then has fallen by 85% to $7.2 billion in 2020. During this time, European nations like Poland and Germany overtook Russia in terms of trade value with Ukraine, and in 2021 trade with the EU totaled to more than $58 billion.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is rapidly reshaping both countries’ international relations and trading partners.
Four days into the recent conflict, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy filed for Ukraine’s special admission into the EU, which would further strengthen Ukraine’s trade with European Union members. Combining the likely breakdown of Ukrainian-Russian trade with China’s lack of condemnation of Russia’s actions, Ukraine’s trade seems likely to continue shifting towards the European Union and its Western allies.
While not exactly international trade, on February 26th the U.S. committed an additional $350 million in support to Ukraine, with American financial security assistance to Ukraine totaling $1 billion over the past year. Alongside the U.S., the EU recently committed €500 million in financial support, and multiple EU and non-EU nations are providing Ukraine with military aid.
Although it’s impossible to determine the results of this conflict and its effects on international trade, the countries supporting Ukraine’s defense today are likely to become the Ukraine’s top trading partners in the future.
Metals mostly provided positive returns in 2021, with lithium and other industrial metals leading the charge while gold and silver slumped.
Looking back on what gave investors strong returns in 2021, it was the year of industrial and energy metals.
As demand for industrial goods surged, so too did their material metals. But unlike energy prices which rose across the board last year, not all metals managed positive returns.
This infographic looks at the year-over-year return on metals prices from January 1 to December 31 of 2021, using pricing data tracked by Tradingeconomics.com.
Last year saw inflation hit 30-year highs as the world’s reopening resulted in unprecedented demand for base and energy metals.
Essential materials for electric vehicle (EV) battery production like lithium and cobalt were among the top performers as EV sales continued to grow in 2021.
Magnesium was another top performer last year, as skyrocketing coal prices impacted the metal, which uses coal as part of the feedstock in the smelting process. In addition, concerns over production suspensions in China for environmental reasons spurred magnesium prices further amidst potential shortage fears.
Iron ore was the only base metal with negative returns, with demand largely curbed by China’s slowing growth and pledge to reduce steel output in May of last year.
Last year saw major automakers like Ford and GM commit themselves to all new car sales being zero emission by 2040, spurring an 80% rise in electric vehicle sales in 2021.
As a result, essential battery metals like lithium, cobalt, lead, and nickel were all in high demand as automakers secured these essential materials for their battery production.
The start of 2022 has also seen more positive catalysts for nickel specifically, as Tesla secured a supply deal with Talon Metals for 75,000 tonnes of nickel concentrate over six years.
Palladium and platinum had strong starts in the first half of the year as well, but chip shortages resulted in a slowdown in automotive production and a drop in demand for the two metals.
Both of these key platinum group metals (PGMs) finished 2021 with double-digit drawdowns, with platinum returning -10.4% and palladium returning -22.0%.
Metals analysts are mixed on whether the two metals (primarily used in automotive catalytic converters) will see a recovery in demand, which would be led by easing chip shortages and supply chain issues.
As the world focused on securing the necessary raw materials for the clean energy transition, gold and silver lagged behind.
Although both precious metals wavered as stores of value, returning -3.5% and -11.5% respectively, bullion sales from the U.S. mint rose by 48.4% compared to 2020.
Despite gold’s underwhelming performance while equities, cryptocurrencies, and other commodities surged, upcoming forecasted rate hikes have historically spurred reversals for the precious metal.
As 2022 has started with equity prices slumping, a potential flight to the safety of hard assets and the continuous demand for raw materials needed for the clean energy transition could set up a positive 2022 for metals.
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