China's monopoly on 17 key elements sets stage for supply crisis

September 1, 2010

China's monopoly on the global supply of elements critical for production of computer hard disc drives, hybrid-electric cars, military weapons, and other key products — and its increasingly strict limits on exports — is setting the stage for a crisis in the United States. That's the topic of the cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby and Contributing Editor Jessie Jiang explain that the situation involves a family of chemical that may soon start to live up to their name, the "rare earths." has virtually cornered the global market on them, and produces most of the world's supply. Since 2005, China has been raising prices and restricting exports, most recently in 2010, fostering a potential supply crisis in the U.S.

The article describes how the U.S. is now responding to this emerging crisis. To boost supplies, for instance, plans are being developed to resume production at the largest U.S. rare-earth mine — Mountain Pass in southern California — which has been dormant since 2002. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense are among the government agencies grappling with the problem.

Explore further: U. S. envisions a new generation of nuclear weapons

More information: "Securing the Supply of Rare Earths", This story is available at

Related Stories

U. S. envisions a new generation of nuclear weapons

March 19, 2007

Almost 62 years after detonation of the first atomic bombs, the United States is considering controversial proposals to produce a new generation of nuclear weapons and revamp its nuclear weapons complex, according to an article ...

Toward improving the safety of Lithium-ion batteries

December 17, 2007

After recalls and fires involving Lithium-ion batteries, battery manufacturers and scientists have launched an intensive effort to improve the safety of these rechargeable power packs found in dozens of consumer electronics ...

China tries to calm unease over rare earths curbs

September 3, 2009

(AP) -- A Chinese official tried to calm unease about curbs on exports of rare earths used in clean energy products and superconductors, saying Thursday that sales will continue but must be limited to reduce damage to China's ...

Recalls, food worries spark booming business in food safety

December 2, 2009

Recalls of ground beef, peanut butter, and other foods have done more than raise public awareness and concern about food safety. They also are quietly fueling a boom in the market for food testing equipment and fostering ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.