Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Minerals are 87% of raw materials used in the U.S.

A new study by the USGS looks at the flow of raw materials across the U.S. from 1900 to the present, not by their value, which is traditionally the way to track them, but by their weight.

So, instead of focusing on the direct economic impacts, this information "is the first attempt to document the flow of these materials in physical terms, which can help in assessing their potential adverse effect on the physical environment. "

The USGS fact sheet presents the amounts (by weight) of raw minerals and materials used in the four categories of physical goods that support the U.S. economy: agriculture, forestry, metals and minerals, and nonrenewable organics.

What is clear in the chart at right is that industrial minerals and construction materials overwelm all the other raw materials. My calculation of the amounts for the last year measured, is the metals and minerals account for a staggering 87% of the weight of all raw materials used in the country [the yellow and orange sections on the chart at right].

One only has to note the recent movement to consume locally grown food crops as a way to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping them long distances, to realize the significance of producing metals and minerals locally as well.

The energy used to move 87% of all the raw materials in the nation must be huge, although that calculation is not made here. The carbon (dioxide) footprint of moving these materials must be comparably large.

"Use of Minerals and Materials in the United States From 1900 Through 2006," USGS Fact Sheet 2009-3008, April 2009

Update 5-1-09, 11am: The USGS has removed the report from its website, stating only, "This report is temporarily unavailable until further notice."


  1. Anonymous10:51 AM

    My comment is: Looks like good information. Although you post this information, your links to it are not live. You might want to correct this problem.
    David Boleneus, Spokane, WA

  2. Thanks for the note David. USGS has removed the report from its website, saying, "This report is temporarily unavailable until further notice."

    I've updated my links to go to the USGS Publications Citation page, which has a link to where the report should be if they repost it.

    I'd like to know why they pulled it.