« PreviousContinue »
steels with established reputations between 10 and 20 cents a pound was considered a good price.
For the “high speed” tool steels, chromium and tungsten are essential; vanadium, cobalt, and molybdenum desirable. Tungsten and vanadium can be produced in this country easily, at least for present demands; molybdenum, chromium, and cobalt for at least a portion of our needs.
Alloy steels of simpler composition are used in many forms of machinery with great benefit. All shoes and dies in stamp mills and the tires of rolls used in crushing ores are made from steel containing chromium. Many of the best automobile axles and springs, locomotive frames and springs, and other machine parts that must stand hard usage and which must be reliable are made from steels carrying vanadium or chromium and vanadium. For these uses it would
FIG. 3.-One man with one metal cutting machine, equipped with tungsten
“high speed ” steel tools, can now do as much work as could five men with five machines equipped with the carbon steel tools formerly used.
be difficult to obtain sufficient chromium in this country, but there would be no great difficulty in producing substitute steels. The vanadium could probably be mined from various deposits in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Uranium is used in the manufacture of special steels and some of its salts are used for coloring glass, but the element is chiefly notable from its being the parent of that wonderful element radium which promises to be of very great importance in the treatment of disease. Through the cooperative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Mines and the National Radium Institute radium is now being manufactured on a commercial scale from the carnotite ores of Colorado at a cost one-third the price asked by foreign producers of radium. This triumph of American invention and skill is not only making this country independent of foreign sources of supply but is enabling
American physicians to apply to the cure of cancer and similar diseases radium in quantities not available to physicians in Europe.
Nickel steels containing about 3.5 per cent nickel are extensively used in automobiles and other machines and in armor plate. The United States has no known large supplies of nickel ores, but substitutes can be provided. The imports amount to about 47,000,000 pounds per year, valued at $6,500,000, 94 per cent of which is from Canada and the remainder is from New Caledonia. About 29,000,000 pounds are exported, leaving 18,000,000 pounds as representing domestic consumption. About 400 tons of nickel is produced from the refining of domestic and foreign blister copper and other ores.
Of titanium, also used in steels, the United States has in the rutile deposits of Virginia the largest available supplies of titanium dioxide known in the world. In addition to this there are millions of tons of titaniferous iron ores in the United States from which it will be possible to obtain titanium, especially for the manufacture of an alloyed steel.
Besides the use of tungsten in steel, in which it is saving millions of dollars a year in wages, it is saving other millions of dollars to consumers of electric light. Incandescent lamps with tungsten filaments are now made which consume only about five-tenths of a watt per candle, against 3.5 watts per candle used by the carbon filament lamp of 10 years ago, so that now one may have for 15 cents as much electric light as he could get 10 years ago for $1, and of much better quality (fig. 4). The production of malleable tungsten has made possible such lamps, and the development of malleable tungsten from the practically infusible powder, in which form only tungsten was before known, was accomplished in this country by the scientists of the General Electric Co. Tungsten in intermittent electric contacts is replacing platinum and is in many places better than platinum, and this, with the use of nickel-chromium resistance wires, is probably responsible for a drop in the price of platinum.
The United States has sufficient supplies of tungsten for its use, though so long as cheaper ores can be obtained abroad they will be imported unless stopped by artificial means, as by a tariff.
The principal tungsten deposits are in Colorado, California, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, and South Dakota. Many of the new discoveries are not sufficiently developed to show how large an output can be made from them. The world's production amounts to 9,500 tons per year, of which the United States produces more than 1,500 tons. Burma, Portugal, Argentina, Queensland, and Japan are other important producers in the order named.
Exact figures showing imports of tungsten are not available, as they are reported as tungsten, ferrotungsten alloys, and tungsten ore.
The United States is also deficient in tin supplies, but substitutes, such as lead, zinc, and aluminum can probably replace it in practically all cases without great inconvenience.
The United States consumes more tin than any other country in the world and at the same time produces practically none. Small deposits of tin have been found in California, Idaho, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, Texas, South Carolina, and Alaska. The latter has in recent years produced some tin, averaging 100 tons per year the past three years, and is worthy of further development.
Carbon filament lamp, 1900.
Tungsten filament lamp, 1915. Fig. 4.—Comparative quantities of electric light obtainable for the same price
from the carbon filament lamp of 15 years ago and the tungsten lamp of to-day.
The United States, however, imports practically all of its tin from the Straits Settlements, Bolivia, and England. Bolivian ores have been sent to Europe for reduction on account of lack of fuel in Bolivia. The smelting of Bolivian ore has been successfully performed in this country, and there seems no reason why it should not be done on a large scale, since the opening of the Panama Canal will furnish low freight rates. A tin smelter has been established at tidewater in New Jersey. The total quantity of tin imported for
consumption in the United States amounts to nearly 58,000 tons per year, valued at more than $50,000,000.
There are a number of plants in operation in the United States for the recovery of tin from various sources, such as the detinning of cans, and the recovery of tin in babbitt, bronze, solder, and electrotype metal. The amount so recovered equals about 15,000 tons per year, valued at more than $14,000,000.
The demand for antimony caused by the European war has resulted in the opening of many deposits. The elernent is almost indispensable in type and bearing metals, and there has been a great demand for antimony to be used in making shrapnel bullets; antimony is thus a metal that lends itself to the perpetuation of the noblest endeavors and at the same time may be used in instruments for destroying men. It has been mostly obtained from China and Mexico, but in this country sufficient supplies for our needs are obtainable, though at somewhat higher costs.
Of other of the rarer elements, arsenic, bismuth, selenium, etc., this country can develop supplies sufficient for any needs now apparent.
Comparatively little is known about a large number of the rarer elements of which the earth is composed. Even the minerals that contain them are little known and it is impossible to state how extensively they occur in the West, for they may have been overlooked as worthless. This assumption is especially true of such elements as tantalum, columbium, thallium, thorium, beryllium, and the 20 or more elements of the cerium and yttrium earths. No one can say what an exploitation of this field might lead to, but it is through 'pure scientific investigation of such problems as these that many industries have been developed, perhaps the most noteworthy being that of the Welsbach gaslight mantle. In the production of thorium from monazite, by far the larger part of the associated materials go to waste. About 30 per cent of this waste is cerium and the remainder. lanthanum, neodyminum, praseodymium, and other rarer elements of the rare earths. There is every prospect that the cerium will soon be utilized and bring a fair price. The separation of the element from the other earths is no longer difficult and, once the element is in solution, can be brought about in a single operation, and the metal can be readily reduced by the electric current. The properties of the metal in alloys, some of which have most remarkable pyrophoric properties, are now well known. It is also probable that cerium oxide, lanthanum oxide, and the oxides of other rare earths that occur in these waste materials will become of special value as refractories, for they are among the most infusible materials known.
Cerium is also finding use in the form of cerium fluoride in the flaming arc, and there is little doubt that this use may be greatly extended. The properties of some of the compounds of cerium to act as perhaps the strongest oxidizing compounds known may open up new uses for this metal.
COAL AND COKE.
One fact about our mineral resources that is pretty generally known is that our coal reserves are immense—hundreds of millions of tons—and that the high-grade coal is in the East and the lowgrade coal is chiefly in the West. Although we are the largest consumer of coal in the world, using nearly 40 per cent of the total
Fig. 5.—Coal reserves and production in the United States compared with the
remainder of the world.
world's production, we have as yet consumed but one-half of 1 per cent of the total quantity the geologists estimate as present in the United States. The comparative coal reserves of the United States and the rest of the world are graphically indicated in fig. 5.
The annual production of coal in the United States has increased over 800 per cent in 35 years—from 68,000,000 short tons in 1879 to 570,000,000 short tons in 1913. The total value at the mines of the coal produced in 1913 was $760,000,000.
Comparatively speaking, we figure only in a small way either as importers or exporters of coal. Our coal imports in 1913 amounted to 1,500,000 tons, mainly from Canada and Australia. The exports in 1913 amounted to 25,000,000 tons, about 4 per cent of the output, Canada receiving the largest tonnage. Great Britain ranked second as a coal producer in 1913, with 322,000,000 tons, of which 36 per cent