Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Fact Sheet 2014–3078

USGS Mineral Resources Program

The Rare-Earth Elements—Vital to Modern Technologies and Lifestyles

By Bradley S. Van Gosen, Philip L. Verplanck, Keith R. Long, Joseph Gambogi, and Robert R. Seal, II

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (710 KB)Summary

Until recently, the rare-earth elements (REEs) were familiar to a relatively small number of people, such as chemists, geologists, specialized materials scientists, and engineers. In the 21st century, the REEs have gained visibility through many media outlets because of (1) the public has recognized the critical, specialized properties that REEs contribute to modern technology, as well as (2) China's dominance in production and supply of the REEs and (3) international dependence on China for the majority of the world's REE supply.

Since the late 1990s, China has provided 85–95 percent of the world’s REEs. In 2010, China announced their intention to reduce REE exports. During this timeframe, REE use increased substantially. REEs are used as components in high technology devices, including smart phones, digital cameras, computer hard disks, fluorescent and light-emitting-diode (LED) lights, flat screen televisions, computer monitors, and electronic displays. Large quantities of some REEs are used in clean energy and defense technologies. Because of the many important uses of REEs, nations dependent on new technologies, such as Japan, the United States, and members of the European Union, reacted with great concern to China’s intent to reduce its REE exports. Consequently, exploration activities intent on discovering economic deposits of REEs and bringing them into production have increased.

First posted November 5, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Mineral Resources Program
U.S. Geological Survey
913 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
http://minerals.usgs.gov/

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). For best results viewing and printing PDF documents, it is recommended that you download the documents to your computer and open them with Adobe Reader. PDF documents opened from your browser may not display or print as intended. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge. More information about viewing, downloading, and printing report files can be found here.


Suggested citation:

Van Gosen, B.S., Verplanck, P.L., Long, K.R., Gambogi, Joseph, and Seal, R.R., II, 2014, The rare-earth elements—Vital to modern technologies and lifestyles: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2014–3078, 4 p., https://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20143078.

ISSN 2327–6932 (online)




Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2014/3078/
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 05:26:14 PM