Rare-earth elements (REEs) are contained in a wide range of products of economic and strategic importance to the Nation. The REEs may or may not represent a significant component of that product by mass, value, or volume; however, in many cases, the embedded REEs are critical for the device’s function. Domestic sources of primary supply and the manufacturing facilities to produce products are inadequate to meet U.S. requirements; therefore, a significant percentage of the supply of REEs and the products that contain them are imported to the United States. In 2011, mines in China produced roughly 97 percent of the world’s supply of REEs, and the country’s production of these elements will likely dominate global supply until at least 2020. Preliminary estimates of the types and amount of rare-earth elements, reported as oxides, in semimanufactured form and the amounts used for electric vehicle batteries, catalytic converters, computers, and other applications were developed to provide a perspective on the Nation’s use of these elements. The amount of rare-earth metals recovered from recycling, remanufacturing, and reuse is negligible when the tonnage of products that contain REEs deposited in landfills and retained in storage is considered. Under favorable market conditions, the recovery of REEs from obsolete products could potentially displace a portion of the supply from primary sources.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary estimates of the quantities of rare-earth elements contained in selected products and in imports of semimanufactured products to the United States, 2010