Used in everything from smartphones to PV solar, rare earth metals are critical for technology equipment, personal electronics, and everything in between. This is a big deal as USA imports the vast majority of its rare earth metals. The major producer of rare earth metals: China.
Rare earth metals consist of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, comprised of the fifteen lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium. The term “rare” is somewhat of a misnomer as these elements occur throughout the earth’s crust. However, they are rare in the sense that it takes a lot of mining to remove them from the crust. In other words, there is a need to remove a lot of dirt to get to the rare earth metals. This translates into an environmental issue as rare earth mining leaves a scarred landscape.
This leaves a big quandary for the USA as it becomes increasingly depended on outside sources, most notably China, for its rare earth metals, leaving a big strategic weakness in technology manufacturing. If there ever becomes a problem sourcing rare earths, the price of telecommunications items currently taken for granted can skyrocket. The price and availability of smartphones, tablet devices, laptops, etc. can rise dramatically.
It is recommended that major device manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, HTC, Amazon, Dell, Nokia, RIM, and others shore-up their sources of rare earth metals.