Issues > Electronics > Environment > Rare Earth Minerals
Rare Earth Minerals
From our smartphones to our latest weaponry, the technology that underpins modern life would be impossible without rare earth minerals. Despite the name, the 17 metallic elements are common in the earth's crust, but the techniques used to extract and refine them is labor-intensive, environmentally hazardous and increasingly costly. China is now responsible for approximately 95% of the world's rare earth mineral production, and has at least half of the world's reserves. China imposed a limit to the export of rare earth minerals in 2009, citing the need to conserve a dwindling resource and limit environmental damage from mining. The United States and others challenged the quotas in 2012 in a WTO complaint, which was upheld in January 2015 with export restrictions dropped. Australia, the third largest producer of rare earth minerals, is responsible for 2.0% of world production and has 3.9% of the world's reserves.
Further information on rare earth resources in Australia, including interactive map
See 'Why We Need Rare Earth Elements' (a great introduction)
See 'The Global Race for Rare Earths'
See 'National Security, Rare Earth Elements'