Why Mining Matters

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Around the world, mineral resources and metals are the cornerstone of establishing and maintaining standards of living in countries and communities of all sizes. Mined minerals are used to construct roads, hospitals, and critical infrastructure; they are the foundation of renewable energy technologies; they are used in transportation and aviation; they provide and facilitate essential energy sources; and they are indispensable components of technology and consumer goods from cell phones and computers to appliances and toys.

Not surprisingly, the mining industry is an important economic driver, especially in the United States. As home to one of the world’s most robust reserves of natural resources, the U.S. is a leading consumer and exporter of critical mineral commodities, most notably silver and gold.

Why Metals Work

Silver and gold are known as precious metals because they are scarce relative to other minerals and they have high economic value. In addition to their historic uses as currency, jewelry, and outward signs of wealth, the value of silver and gold to modern life is directly tied to their unique and important properties as metals.

Learn more about how Metals and Minerals are Critical to our Nation’s Health Care System.

Silver conducts electricity and heat at higher levels and more efficiently than any other metal. It is more reflective at most temperatures than any other metal, and it can be combined with metals such as nickel or palladium to form important alloys. Chemically speaking, silver is one of the most noble minerals, meaning it is one of the least chemically reactive of elements.

Gold is one of the densest metals of all, and it is a good conductor of heat and electricity. Gold is also soft and the most malleable ductile of the elements: one ounce of gold (28 grams) can be beaten out to 187 square feet (about 17 square meter) in extremely thin sheets called gold leaf. In additional to being extremely workable, gold does not tarnish or corrode.

Gold is durable to the point of virtual indestructibility, highly malleable, and usually found in nature in a comparatively pure form.

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Silver is the most electrically conductive element, and it is also has the highest thermal conductivity of any element.

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Gold nanoparticles are small gold particles with a diameter of 1 to 100 nm which, once dispersed in water, are known as colloidal gold.

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Around the house and in our places of work, pipes, joints, faucets, and electrical wires are joined together using heat – a process called soldering.

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Silver is a common yet vital catalyst that produces industrial chemicals that are used to manufacture plastics, textiles, adhesives, and laminating resins.

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Though it’s been used in medicine for years, scientists have only recently begun to understand how silver works to protect against bacterial infections.

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A small amount of gold is used in almost every sophisticated electronic device, including smart phones, computers, televisions, and household appliances.

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To power our cars, motorcycles, trains, and airplanes, engines convert heat into mechanical energy.

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Silver is the most reflective element, and polished silver reflects 95% of the visible light spectrum. 

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Because it is an excellent reflector of infrared light, gold is a critical component of an exciting new space telescope set to be launched by NASA in 2021.

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How Metals are Put to Work

From the moment you hit the alarm to wake up in the morning until you turn off the light to go to bed at night, your daily life is touched and powered by metals and minerals. Silver and gold are embedded in essential electronics such as cell phones and computers. They are critical components of important medicines and medical devices. And they are a vital part of renewable energy sources and emerging technology that are defining America’s future.

Unique properties such as conductivity and malleability have positioned silver as the ideal material for a number of industrial uses.

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When it comes to using silver for medical purposes, the history is deep, and the future is bright.

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Historically recognized as a prized metal, gold has become an integral part of modern life.

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Global population growth, and the fact that the renewable energy sector needs a significant amount of minerals for their energy resources and products means there will be an even greater demand for mineral resources.

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The gold we mine is used in memory chips found in phones and in many places in the standard desktop or laptop computer.

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Gold-based pharmaceuticals and medical technologies are used in diagnostics and treatment of conditions and illnesses across the spectrum.

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Revered for its luster and beauty, gold’s place atop the mineral value chain is not arbitrary.

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Gold is known for its use as currency, jewelry, and as the standard for many monetary systems.

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Computers dictate many of the essential functions of today’s cars and trucks, including monitoring emissions, managing engine temperature, and triggering anti-lock brake and air bag technology.

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Long before scientists understood the antibacterial properties of silver, ancient populations stored liquids in silver containers to prevent them from spoiling.

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Silver has been a precious metal since ancient times, but today its value goes far beyond currency and ornamental uses.

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Gold is an essential part of the technologies that shape our lives and our future.

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Though steeped in history, it’s gold’s vast modern uses that make it an enduring investment.

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Practical and beautiful, silver tableware and serving pieces have are essential, cherished heirlooms across generations.

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Since the dawn of man, gold has inspired dreams, art, and aspirations.

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Silver is playing a key role in advancing the creation of artificial nerve cells.

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Valued for its electrical conductivity and catalytic properties, silver is an essential component of many manufacturing sectors.

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Keep Metals Working

Every day, economies around the world seek solutions to meet energy, infrastructure, and technology demands of their growing populations. Minerals and metals are essential to meeting those demands, and America’s abundant natural resources play an important role in fulfilling domestic and foreign needs. Still, policy here at home often disrupts or prevents efficient exploration, access, and supply chain management that enables getting these important to market. As a result, the U.S. is in a position to rely other countries for critical minerals, yet those countries do not have the stringent labor, safety, and environmental standards. This negatively impact jobs and economic opportunity in America.

Minerals and metals are essential to our modern medical world and are key to many of the medicinal innovations we see today, serving as the building blocks of the life-saving medical devices and medications that doctors and patients rely on every day.

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The US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has listed mine workers as essential critical infrastructure workers and deemed miners vital to the national effort against the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The United States is far too reliant on other countries for critical minerals that are essential for important industries and national security.

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Right now, the United States and China are competing to capture the production of advanced energy technologies like solar panels, electric cars and lithium-ion batteries.

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