Skip to main content
Amphibious transport during WW II

Critical Minerals in World War 2

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that mineral resources like critical metals, oil, and coal had a lot to do with World War 2 – but they seldom get the attention they deserve. How Minerals Made Civilization, the UA Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources’ YouTube video series on the role of mineral resources in history, is launching a trilogy about how mineral resources influenced the war.  Part 1, posted today, covers mineral resources during the interwar buildup: how mineral resources figured in national (and transnational) politics in the 1930s, how resource-poor nations sought to build up their supplies, and how the struggle for resources eventually culminated in the outbreak of the war. From the video, here are a few fun facts you may not have known:

  •  Coins for combat: During the early to mid-1930s, both Germany and Japan reissued old silver coinages in nickel so they would have a nickel supply for gun steels when the war broke out.
  •  Coal, meet hydrogen: Coal-to-oil conversion was invented too late to change the outcome of World War 1, but it was about to play a major role in supplying Germany in the next war.
  •  Why we use molybdenum in steels: The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 redirected Soviet manganese exports from the USA to Germany, so American metallurgists developed improved molybdenum-alloy steels as a substitute using molybdenum from Arizona and Colorado.

Check out the video at:

Stay tuned for the next videos in the series!

Invited post by Isabel Barton, Ph.D., Mining & Geological Engineering, UArizona