Strategic metals are defined as metals of vital importance to the national defense, energy and industry sectors, and are often subjected to supply disruptions due to limited domestic production as only a handful of companies and nations dominate the market. Supply concerns are also raised due to the unsustainable depletion of stockpiles.
According to a 2009 report by the National Research Council, North America is dependent for at least 90% of supply of 23 different metals, up from 19 the previous year.
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Rare earth elements became a household name over the last year as Chinese trade policy drastically affected price and supply. China currently controls over 95 percent of the production of these elements and following the country’s reduction of mining and export quotas, the price of these critical metals exploded.
Manganese is vital for the production of high-strength steel for military and large scale construction projects. Electrolytic manganese is used in new battery technologies that far surpass current lithium-ion batteries.
Vanadium is hard to come by, and most is produced by China, Russia and South Africa. It is primarily found as a byproduct of steel production, or oil and uranium mining. The metal is valuable, not only for the production of steel, but also in new battery technologies.
The vast majority of mined cobalt is used primarily in super-alloys for jet engine parts, lithium-ion batteries, and as a catalyst in the petroleum and chemical industries.Tungsten is used in a variety of applications from super-alloys, such as carbide drill bits used by oil and mining industries, to penetrating projectiles and rocket nozzles for military applications. Currently 85 percent of world supply comes from China.
Tantalum is a vital component for high tech electronics, primarily used in electronic capacitors. It is also used in supper-alloys for jet engines, and nuclear reactors.