Minerals Extraction Affects Many Beats

February 16, 2011

A new report provides a good opportunity to show off your ability to cover many beats, since it allows you to concurrently cover the environment, business, national security, and crime.

On Jan. 28, 2011, USGS released its annual report on the value and production of minerals in the country.

One of the main highlights is that US dependence on foreign sources of minerals continues its three-decade uptrend. The country is now 99-100% dependent on foreign countries for 20 of the 90 or so mineral commodities covered in the report. China supplies some of these, but many countries have the upper hand in controlling these materials, and the cost and availability of the goods they are used to make.

Within the US, the report identifies a handful of minerals in every state that are the primary extracted materials. The states with the highest dollar value of extracted nonfuel minerals were NV, AZ, UT, MN, AK, CA, TX, MO, and FL. In addition, there are several maps that pinpoint locations in almost every state that are hotspots for a specific mineral. There also is quantitative and trend information for each mineral, providing good starting points for assessing the mineral extraction industries in your audience area, and the local environmental and economic impacts.

Overall, the value of minerals went up 9% in 2010, due in large part to increasing demand for substances such as gold, copper, iron ore, molybdenum, and zinc. Those gains offset declines in construction-related materials such as sand, gravel, crushed stone, and gypsum. But the declines in value slowed compared to the previous year, suggesting that the recession's grip on the construction industry may be loosening. That has both economic and environmental consequences.

Though the recession may be easing, criminals continue to steal materials that contain valuable minerals such as copper. Their brazen thefts often leave the victims with huge costs, since the act of ripping out copper pipes, other plumbing components, or electrical lines and equipment causes havoc such as flooded buildings or major electrical damage. Check with local police or sheriffs to find out more about trends and cases in your area.