From smartphones to cars and defense missiles, modern U.S. life depends on rare earth elements, but China dominates the industry and may end U.S. access to the unusual metals
Nearly five years ago, we reported a story on something called rare earth elements. Now, they’ve become a major element of the U.S.-China trade war. Rare earths are unusual metals that can be found in almost every piece of high tech you can think of: from new cars to precision-guided missiles to the screen you’re watching this story on right now.
China controls roughly 80% of the mining, refining and processing of rare earths. Now,in response to President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, Beijing is making not-so-subtle threats to cut off our supply of rare earths. And that’s especially troubling, because as we reported in 2015, it was the United States that started the rare earth revolution in the first place.