President Barack Obama has pledged an extra $150m more for
the US Geological Survey (USGS) in his proposed 2016 budget,
taking the organisations final budget, if approved, to $1.2bn
"The FY16 budget reflects the vital role the USGS plays in
advancing the President’s ongoing commitment to
scientific discovery and innovation to support a robust
economy, sustainable economic growth, natural resource
management, and science-based decision-making for critical
societal needs," the USGS said after the budget was
The Industrial Minerals Association of North America
(IMA-NA) explained meanwhile that since 1995, with the
dissolution of the US Bureau of Mines, "funding has been
repeatedly cut to the minerals science programmes".
|| "The proposed FY16 budget shows some potential
movement, including a request for just under $1m for the
Mineral Resources Programme," IMA-NA said.
"The money is specifically to continue life-cycle
analyses for critical minerals and R&D to reduce the
impact of mining on the environment, the association
|President Obama has pledged an extra $150m to
the USGS budget for 2016
Minerals are back on the agenda in the US — and not
before time. As the impact of the global financial crisis
starts to ebb, demand for industrial minerals, which go hand in
hand with a growing consumer base and urbanisation, has started
to creep up.
In the last year, a globally recognised
vehicle manufacturer, Tesla Motors, has stated that it will
need more supply of minerals such as lithium and graphite to
build a battery Gigafactory in Nevada for its cars.
Not only that, but if the company is seeking to produce
automobiles on a grander scale than it already has done, it
will need other minerals such as talc, boron, silica sand, iron
oxide, titanium dioxide (TiO2) minerals, rare earths
(neodymium) and silicon carbide (SiC), among many others.
This is not the only facet driving industrial minerals
The Middle East is experiencing a construction boom on the
back of increased urbanisation – and of course the
FIFA World Cup is being held in Qatar in 2022, which has
prompted plans for stadiums and related facilities.
Much has been made of slowing growth in China in the short
term, but many major industrial minerals companies –
including Rio Tinto and leading speciality alumina producer
Almatis — believe that in the medium to long term,
China will drive growth in mineral demand through increased
The US has been resolute in its intention to diversify its
mineral supply away from China and other countries and build up
its own minerals industry. This has translated into government
support for domestic producers and regulation which makes it
harder for countries to 'dump’ cheaper materials
on its shores.
For fossil fuels, the US pledge to concentrate on local
industry and decrease reliance on exported oil and gas saw
companies invited to explore unconventional options such as
fracking in the mid-to-late 2000s. This has led to a explosion
in demand for minerals associated with hydraulic fracturing,
such as silica (frac) sand and other proppants, as well as
those minerals used in drilling muds –bentonite and
|| Following the
Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, all deep sea
drilling was cut in the US, which impacted demand for
minerals used in conventional drilling, such as barite
and bentonite – although industrial minerals
were relied upon in the
clean up effort.
The return to deep sea drilling and the 'shale
gale’ which hit the US has meant a spike in
demand for these minerals, something which is recognised
by the US – notwithstanding the recent slide in
|Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster,
demand for oilfield minerals has returned
Water challenges highlighted
With increased exploration, both of fossil fuels and in the
production of minerals (like iodine) comes the challenge of
managing water supply. This has also been highlighted in
the FY2016 Budget, which has pledged an increase of $14.5m
above the 2015 budget to support programmes which look into
sustainable water management.
"As competition for water resources grows for activities
such as farming, energy production, and community water
supplies, so does the need for information and tools to aid
decision-makers," the USGS said.
Fracking trends highlighted
The USGS has put together a report which highlights
fracking trends from 1947 to 2010 which specifically
identifies trends in drilling and the use of proppants,
treatment fluids and water.
The 24-page report demonstrates that the largest
amount of wells fracked were in Texas, followed by
Pennsylvania and then Oklahoma in the 2000-2010
Unsurprisingly, the data shows that the use of sand
in fracking spiked alongside the wells themselves and
shows that in the last 10 years water usage rose to
more than double its level in 2000 in 2010, but has
since fallen off.
There were, in 2000-2010 – a ten year
period — an average of 2,464 horizontal gas
wells drilled, compared to 654 in the years 1953-1999,
a 46 year period.
The USGS released its global mineral data for 2014 this week
– another service which is invaluable to those
prospecting or looking to expand their facilities.
The data, which has been contested by some, shows that
magnesia capacity in Austria has slipped 9% over the year, with
200,000 tonnes produced.
North Korean magnesia production has expanded by 14% in
2014, meanwhile, to 80,000 tonnes.
|| For natural graphite, USGS data shows that
production worldwide grew by almost 5% year-on-year
(y-o-y) in 2014, as new capacity came online in Canada
(50% more graphite produced in 2014), Madagascar and
Mexico, which boosted capacity to 8,000 tpa from 7,000
tpa in 2013.
Production in Brazil slipped by 15.8% in 2014 when
compared to the previous year, to 80,000 tonnes.
| Source USGS
Lithium production meanwhile is expected to have increased
by 2.3% y-o-y.
For mineral sands, the optimisation taking place across the
sector as demand dwindles is seen in the data. Ilmenite
production slipped 50% in the US in 2014, by 30% in Brazil and
20% in Norway.
Value of minerals production increases in
Elsewhere, the report shows how the estimated value of
mineral production increased in the US in 2014.
The estimated value of mineral raw materials produced at
mines in the US in 2014 was $77.6bn, an increase of 4.6% from
$74.2bn in 2013.
"US economic growth supported the domestic primary metals
industry and industrial minerals industry, however, weak global
economic growth and the strong US dollar limited processed
mineral exports, which decreased to $108bn in 2014 from $129bn
in 2013," the body explained.
Drilling Grade Barite report is now available to purchase.
To order your copy or to receive a report brochure please
contact Emma Hughes, Special Projects Editor, on
firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 207 827 6449.