Critical Metals are metals and non-metals that are considered vital for the economic well-being of the world's major and emerging economies, yet whose supply may be at risk due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, trade policy or other factors. Among these important minerals are metals and semi-metals used in industry (all industries across all supply chain stages), modern technology (e.g. mobile phones, flat screen monitors and many other high-tech applications), and the environment (e.g. wind turbines, electric cars, solar panels).
Many countries, including United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and the European' s industries and economies are reliant on international markets to provide access to many important raw materials that are produced and supplied by third countries. The supply of many critical raw materials is highly concentrated. The USGS estimates that China supplies 80% of the world's tungsten, whilst consuming 60%.
The minerals ranked as most critical by the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the European Union including the United Kingdom, are as follows (ranked by Geoscience Australia based on synthesis of individual country rankings)1:
Rare-earth elements (REE), gallium (Ga), indium (In), tungsten (W), platinum-group elements (PGE) including platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd), cobalt (Co), niobium (Nb), magnesium (Mg), molybdenum (Mo), antimony (Sb), lithium (Li), vanadium (V), nickel (Ni), tantalum (Ta), tellurium (Te), chromium (Cr) and manganese (Mn).
Due to its extremely high melting point, tungsten mill products (sheet, rod, wire, pins) are fabricated from powder and not through melting and casting. The tungsten powder is pressed into parts, sintered (consolidated) and worked (rolled, forged, swaged, or wire drawn) to the desired form. Tungsten mill products are either tungsten metal products, such as lighting filaments, electrodes, electrical and electronic contacts, wires, sheet, rods, etc. or tungsten alloys.
Tungsten, through its use in cemented carbide and high speed steel tools, is critical to the achievement of high productivity levels in industries on which the world's economic well-being depend. Tungsten is the most important metal for thermo-emission applications, not only because of its high electron emissivity (which is caused by additions of foreign elements) but also because of its high thermal and chemical stability. Tungsten used in Lighting Technology, Electronics, Power Engineering, Coating and Joining Technology, the Automotive and Aerospace Industries, Medical Technology, the generation of High Temperatures, the Tooling Industry, Sports and Jewellery.
In the household, tungsten is used in light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, "energy savers", HID lamps, cell phones, television sets, magnetrons for microwave ovens and other electrical consumer products. It is used for wall drilling, tile cutting, circular knifes, and for the small balls of the ballpoint pen.
Molybdenum is an essential alloy, making steel stronger and more heat resistant. Molybdenum is a silvery-white metal that is ductile and highly resistant to corrosion. It has one of the highest melting points of all pure elements --- only the elements tantalum and tungsten have higher melting points. Molybdenum is also a micronutrient essential for life.
As a transition metal, molybdenum easily forms compounds with other elements and most commercial molybdenum is used in the production of alloys, where it is added to increase hardness, strength, electrical conductivity and resistance to wear and corrosion.
Common household items which incorporate molybdenum include stainless steel pots and pans, automotive grease, and electronic devices. Medical instruments such as scalpels and other surgical instruments also contain molybdenum.