Rare Earth Elements: The Global Supply Chain (CRS)

Rare earth elements — of which there are 17, including the 15 lanthanides plus yttrium and scandium — are needed in many industrial and national security applications, from flat panel displays to jet fighter engines.  Yet there are foreseeable stresses on the national and global supply of these materials.

“The United States was once self-reliant in domestically produced [rare earth elements], but over the past 15 years has become 100% reliant on imports, primarily from China,” a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service observes.  “The dominance of China as a single or dominant supplier [...] is a cause for concern because of China’s growing internal demand for its [own rare earth elements],” the report said.

The CRS report provides background and analysis on the uses of rare earth elements, existing reserves, national security applications, the global supply chain and relevant legislation.  See “Rare Earth Elements: the Global Supply Chain,” July 28, 2010.

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  1. George Smith August 29, 2010 at 8:12 PM #

    “The United States was once self-reliant in domestically produced [rare earth elements], but over the past 15 years has become 100% reliant on imports, primarily from China …”

    Steve, I just had to laugh grimly when I saw this.

    Excelsior!

    Flat panel displays and a lot of other stuff that uses rare earth elements aren’t made here, anymore, either. There’s a kind of poetic symmetry to it.

  2. Robert September 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM #

    I don’t think the USA is concerned about the lack of rare earth metals for flat panel displays. The real concern is their use for military needs (stealth bombers, surveillence systems, smart bombs) and if they have their hands tied because China refuses to export the metals (keeping them for their own internal needs), then the USA needs to find new sources. Hence, Molycorp mine starting up again.