Lower environmental standards and labor costs have shifted the production of rare earth elements to China- but at what price for the US? Once the leading producer of rare earth elements, the US now relies on China for its supply. This is problematic because China has been attempting to limit exports to the US. Rare earth elements are critical to a variety of military applications, including satellites, missile guidance systems, lasers and vehicle parts risking US national security.

The CRS report for Congress outlines multiple options the US has to reduce its reliance on Chinese rare earth minerals. I find that the best option is for the US to begin domestic production, but in an environmentally safe way. According to the report, though, building the infrastructure to begin producing may take up to 15 years, which means the US must take other steps in the status quo to hedge against China’s hold over the industry. Other options include stockpiling resources and forming alliances to diversify the supply source.

-Leandra

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41744.pdf