The mining industry is one of the most regulated in the world today. The Mining Law of 1872 governs mining and prospecting for lithium, silver, copper, and gold. It helped to place the United States as a world leader in this industry, advancing innovations in healthcare, defense, and manufacturing sectors while becoming an energy provider. These activities are complemented by an exhaustive level of modern state and federal protections that work to protect the environment.
American mining companies employ over 1.5 million people each year, generating over $95 billion in labor income. Domestic mining activities created by the industry in the United States provided $17 billion in royalties, fees, and taxes that contributed to the overall economy.
Despite these strengths, the United States is 100% reliant on imports for 18 minerals. It is a figure that includes 14 that the government deems to be critical to national safety. Americans are over 50% reliant on imports for 30 additional minerals.
Interesting Mining Industry Statistics
#1. The average American uses approximately 3.4 tons of coal every year. Each person will also consume over 40,000 pounds of newly mined materials annually. That means the average person will consume approximately 3.19 million pounds of minerals, fuels, and metals during their lifetime. (National Mining Association)
#2. About half of all of the electricity generated in the United States comes from either uranium or coal produced by the mining industry. (National Mining Association)
#3. Nearly every manufactured product available for sale in the world today uses at least one mineral component that came from the global mining industry. (National Mining Association)
#4. The world’s 40 largest global mining companies reported a total of $683 billion in revenues for 2018. Their profit margin decreased from 25% in 2010 to only 10% in 2018. (Statista)
#5. China leads the world in hard coal production for the mining industry, producing over 3.2 billion metric tons each year. (Statista)
#6. Chile is the global mining industry’s leader for copper production, with 5.8 million tons coming to the world’s market in 2018. (Statista)
#7. The total assets of the world’s top mining companies worldwide reached $1 trillion in 2018. During the same time, their total operating expenses reached $518 billion. (Statista)
#8. We use more stone than any other product from the mining industry each year. Each person has a share of about five tons that get used to make buildings, bridges, roads, and landscaping. Some of these materials even go into chemical uses. (Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Foundation)
#9. The average person will use about 7,345 pounds of sand and gravel during the year. These items are used to make asphalt, blocks, bricks, and concrete. (Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Foundation)
#10. We use 256 pounds of iron ore every year per capita to make steel for trains, planes, automobiles, and other uses. (Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Foundation)
#11. The two minerals that the mining industry provides each year that we use the least are zinc and manganese. We will use 6 pounds of each item respectively per person. We use zinc to make metal products resistant to corrosion, while manganese is useful for almost all forms of steel. We can also use zinc for nutrition purposes, skin creams, and even rubber. (Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Foundation)
#12. For every 2000 pounds of steel that we produce each year, about 0.6 tons of metallurgical coal is necessary to complete the material. Almost every industry uses this product, with steel use projected to be 1.5 times higher in 2050 than it is today. (National Mining Association)
#13. About 1,000,000,000 tons of metallurgical coal is used by the global steel industry every year for production. This statistic represents 15% of our total coal consumption around the world each year. (National Mining Association)
#14. The United States currently operates over 175 metallurgical coal mines, providing over 13,000 direct employment opportunities. (National Mining Association)
#15. Coking coal plants in the United States consumed over 18 million short tons of mined product in 2018. (National Mining Association)
#16. The United States mining industry was the second-largest global exporter of metallurgical coal in 2017. Americans supplied 15% of the total market. The leading importers were India, Canada, Ukraine, Japan, and Brazil. (National Mining Association)
#17. 70% of the steel that we use today requires metallurgical coal to make our global infrastructure safer and stronger. Half of this product is used for buildings or infrastructure needs, while 12% goes to the automotive industry. Mechanical equipment takes 15% of the final product, while appliances take 3%, and electrical equipment consumes another 2%. (World Steel Association)
#18. The total number of active businesses in the American mining industry was over 50,000 in 2018. These firms brought in over $555 billion in revenue, but they experienced a 3.6% contraction during this period. (IBIS World)
#19. American mines produced over $82 billion of raw mineral materials in 2018. This figure represents a 3% increase over the 2017 revised figure of $79.7 billion. (U.S. Geological Survey)
#20. 45% of the value that comes from the American mining industry involves construction sand, crushed stone, and gravel. These items total $25.3 billion in 2018. (U.S. Geological Survey)
#21. There were 13 mineral commodities produced by the American mining industry in 2018 that reached a value of $1 billion. These items, in decreasing order of value, including the following: crushed stone, cement, construction gravel and sand, gold, copper, industrial gravel and sand, iron ore, zinc, lime, salt, phosphate, soda ash, and all types of clay. (U.S. Geological Survey)
#22. Aluminum imports decreased by 11% in 2018 because of the additional import duty for articles imposed as a result of findings under the Trade Expansion Act. Only two countries did not have an increased import duty for the year, and they were Australia and Argentina. The latter had import quotas in place already. (U.S. Geological Survey)
#23. The American mining industry began producing rare earth materials in 2018 for the first time in three years. (U.S. Geological Survey)
#24. 27% of the new board of director appointments that occurred in the mining industry in 2018 involved women. Female board representation increased to 19%. (PwC)
#25. Employee cost increases rose by 5% for the global mining industry in 2018. Of the 22 organizations that reported injury statistics for the year, 15% showed an improvement over their 2017 statistics. Fatalities were down by almost 40%. (PwC)
#26. New mining exploration activities were up 15% worldwide in 2018. Technology innovations in the sector have the potential to drive down costs, which is why there is a surge of new activity in this area. (PwC)
#27. Capital expenditures for the mining industry we’re at $48 billion in 2018, which is the lowest level for this sector since 2006. Production was flat for the year, partially due to a limitation on large-scale new project approvals around the world. (PwC)
#28. 33% of the operating costs found in the mining industry are related to raw materials and consumables. Employee expenses are responsible for 32% of these costs. Government royalties (14%), freight and transport (10%), and exploration and evaluation expenditures (2%) are the other significant categories. (PwC)
#29. BHP Billiton reports that its internal initiatives will generate $1.2 billion in savings across the business by 2022, creating a 20% reduction in downtime and a 15% reduction in unit costs. (PwC)
#30. The coal industry has paid over $9.5 billion into the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Program. The goal of this program was to reclaim legacy abandoned mines, but a majority of the funds simply disappeared. Only 33% of the dollars spent by the AML fund went to priority projects. (National Mining Association)
#31. 70% of voters say that they support a mix of renewable energy resources, nuclear power, natural gas, and coal to ensure lower costs and reliability for the energy future of the United States. (Morning Consult Poll 9/2019)
#32. The ACE rule expects to cut emissions by more than 33% below 2005 levels by the year 2030 while reducing the compliance burden of following regulations by up to $400 million. (National Mining Association)
#33. 81% of voters believe it is essential to maintain a diverse mix of fuels to power the domestic energy grid in the United States. This figure includes coal produced by the mining industry. (National Mining Association)
#34. About 40% of the households in the United States are spending 17% or more of their disposable income on energy-related expenses. (America’s Power)
#35. The U.S. Department of Interior proposed in 2015 to withdraw up to 10 million acres of land from new mining operations to protect the sage grouse. There was only one problem with this request: the bird is not on any endangered list. The mining industry argues that conservation agreements and habitat restoration efforts are improving its population numbers. The government canceled the request in 2017. (National Mining Association)
#36. 47% of the active mining operations in the United States involved sand or gravel. Stone mining represents 32% of the market, while coal was responsible for 11% of it. (CDC)
#37. 32% of the workforce found in the American mining industry are independent contractors. 19% of the total hours worked in 2015 were directly attributed to them. (CDC)
#38. Coal mine operators accounted for one-quarter of the reported hours for the U.S. mining industry in 2015. Stone mine operators represented 23% of this labor, while metal mine operators stood at 15%. (CDC)
#39. The number of full-time employees or their equivalent was higher for surface work locations than those at underground work locations for the mining industry in the United States in 2015. (CDC)
#40. Over 30% of the occupational fatalities that happened in the American mining industry in 2015 were due to machinery issues. 23% of them came from powered haulage, while 15% involved falls. (CDC)
#41. Latin America represents 28% of the worldwide exploration spending for the mining industry as of 2016. Canada contributed 14% of these activities, while Africa and Australia were both at 13%. The United States represented just 7% of these investments. (SME Mining Engineering Magazine)
#42. Employment in the metals mineral mining industry is one of the highest-paying jobs in the private sector currently available in the United States. The average worker earns a salary of more than $88,000 per year, which is 68% higher than the combined average for all industrial jobs. Experienced employees in the sector can easily earn more than $100,000 annually. (National Mining Association)
#43. The United States uses 0.1 tons of niobium and 1.2 kg of tantalum when building a fighter jet for defensive purposes. They are 100% import-dependent on these projects. Americans are also 74% dependent on cobalt. (U.S. Geological Survey)
#44. There were 4,517 non-fatal lost-time injuries reported by the U.S mining industry in 2015. That figure is about 10% lower than what was reported the year before, and no additional data has been released since then. (CDC)
#45. Workers in the mining industry report back injuries more than any other type of injury, resulting in over 50,000 days lost from work. Knee injuries were the next most common type of injury and resulted in over 31,000 days lost, while finger injuries were the least common with about 28,000 days lost. (CDC)
#46. Stone, sand, and gravel mines are found in all 50 states. The mining industry also has locations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The primary commodity for these facilities is broken or crushed limestone. (CDC)
Mining Industry Trends and Analysis
Things are looking up for the best minds in the world today. As a group, the 40 largest companies in this global industry increased production levels, improved their cash flow, reduced debt levels, and provided a return to their shareholders that was at or near a record high. There was even cash left over to increase their capital expenditures for the first time in five years at the end of 2018.
Despite all of this good news, investors remain skeptical about the future of the mining industry. There are several big questions that remain unaddressed when forecasting the future of this sector, especially since it is one of the world’s largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Look for products like battery metals and copper to receive the most investments as people start shying away from the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Coal still contributes 38% of the global electricity supply, but mining companies will continue to look for other options. If the industry can change fast enough, a robust future lies in wait. If not, then the skepticism of today’s investors may become tomorrow’s reality.
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