China controls approximately 97 percent of the world’s rare earth element market. These elements, which are not widely known because they are so low on the production chain, are critical to hundreds of high tech applications, many of which define our modern way of life. Without rare earth elements, much of the world’s modern technology would be vastly different and many applications would not be possible.Over the past few years, China has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism over its monopoly of the rare earth industry and for gradually reducing export quotas of these resources.
China, however is faced with its own internal issues that, if not addressed, could soon stress the country’s rare earth industry. This paper by Cindy Hurst* is designed to give the reader a better understanding of what rare earth elements are and their importance to society in general and to U.S. defense and energy policy in particular. It also explores the history of rare earth elements and China’s current monopoly of the industry, including possible repercussions and strategic implications if rare earth elements supply were to be disrupted
Download The USGS report on rare earths