Rare Earth Materials Insights and Concerns

Davinder K. Anand, Dylan A. Hazelwood, Michael G. Pecht, Robert A. Kavetsky, Robert E. Kaczmarek, Xin Song

CALCE EPSC Press, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 2012.

Rare earth elements are used in an ever-growing variety of applications that are key to our modern technology. In addition they are essential for a wide variety of defense technologies that are critical to national security. Global demand for rare earth materials is projected to grow, fueled in part by continued development and deployment of emerging energy technologies, and as a result, a global shortage of rare earths is anticipated in the near future. Although the United States has 13 percent of the world’s reserves, nearly all rare earth materials used in the country are imported from China. In contrast, China has only 36 percent of the world’s rare earth reserves, yet accounts for more than 97 percent of global rare earth production. Furthermore, China has been reducing its export quotas in order to satisfy growing domestic demand, and is placing further emphasis on strengthening its vertically integrated supply chain in the rare earth industry by focusing on downstream rare earth products.

To address a possible rare earth shortage crisis, the United States needs to actively pursue policies to ensure supply security. In addition to developing domestic resources and stockpiling specific rare earths, we must support the development of new technologies for their mining and processing. We must also develop more efficient manufacturing and recycling methods for consumer goods containing rare earths, investigate synthetic rare earth substitute compounds, and continue research into rare-earth-free technologies. In this book book we discuss these topics in detail.