Rare Earths and Critical Metals

Rare earths and rare earth mining are critically important to modern life. Rare earths are elements found underground that mix diffusely with other minerals. Contrary to their name, rare earths are found almost everywhere, but in very small quantities. It becomes economically viable to mine for rare earths when they are discovered in high concentrations, or when they are byproducts of other mining activities.

Rare earths provide critical components for a wide array of products from iPhones to computers, medical CAT scans, defense systems, wind turbines and more. The United States depends on other countries, some of which are not very friendly, for these elements. The United States currently imports over 90 percent of its rare earths. However, domestic production of rare earths can be expanded, adding jobs to the economy and revenues to state budgets.

Rare earths are represented on the periodic table as elemental symbols. Each element has different properties important for various industrial uses. For example, Yttrium (Y) is used in most modern flat-screen TVs to project a rich red color on the display. And Neodymium (Nd) is used to produce strong magnets with a variety of applications, including national defense systems.


NCPA Research Publications

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) has published various research studies that explore the barriers to rare earths mining, the reliance on China and other foreign sources, and the resulting implications of not having a robust rare earths mining, refining and processing capability in the United States.


NCPA Congressional Testimony

In 2013, the NCPA submitted expert testimony for a hearing at the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The testimony, based on much of the NCPA research above, details the problems with relying on foreign sources of rare earths and suggests policies that would increase supply by mining rare earths here in the United States.

Finding Sources of Rare Earths Byond China


Conferences and Briefings

The NCPA educates members of Congress and their staff on these and other important issues. In 2011, NCPA convened a landmark conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss rare earths, critical metals, energy and national security. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) spoke at the conference.