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

Rare Earths: Implications for National Defense, the Economy and the Environment

NCPA hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on September 26, 2014, to educate key Congressional staff about rare earth elements and the implications for national defense, the economy and the environment.  The briefing featured a panel of speakers: Kevin Cassidy, CEO of US Rare Earths; Jim Kennedy, President of ThREE Consulting; John Kutch, President of the Thorium Energy Alliance; Printus LeBlanc, legislative assistant to Rep. Steve Stockman (TX-36); and Brian Williams, NCPA Legislative Director.  NCPA released two publications at the briefing: Critical Minerals- Rare Earths and the U.S. Economy and The Potential of Thorium for Safer, Cleaner and Cheaper Energy

China's Rare Earth Monopoly is a U.S. Vulnerability

NCPA cosponsored an invitation-only Capitol Hill briefing on May 12, 2014, to educate military and natural resources legislative assistants about the importance of rare earths.  The briefing discussed policy options to answer China's near monopoly on rare earth processing, including ways to create a supply chain in the United States for defense systems that rely on rare earth elements.  The briefing featured a panel of speakers: Dr. Michael Simpson and Dr. Michael Free, professors of metallurgical engineering at the University of Utah; Dr. Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation; Matthew Blackwell, President of Iluka Resources; and Jim Kennedy, President of ThREE Consulting.

Rare Earths, Critical Metals, Energy and National Security Conference

Critical Metals 101

NCPA and American Resources Policy Network (ARPN) hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on September 19, 2012, to educate Congressional staff about the importance of rare earths in particular, and critical metals in general.  The briefing provided a broad overview about rare earths, where they come from, how rare earths are processed, and their everyday applications.  The briefing stressed the importance of rare earth elements to the U.S. economy, particularly the high tech and defense sectors.  Speakers included H. Sterling Burnett from NCPA and Daniel McGroarty from ARPN.

Rare Earths, Critical Metals, Energy and National Security

NCPA hosted a day-long conference on November 2, 2011, about the link between the supply of rare earths in the United States and the nation's safety.  The conference featured several industry and policy experts with a broad spectrum of views and expertise.  The conference also highlighted views from Capitol Hill, including the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and a House legislative panel featuring Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO).