Rare Earths: When a Natural Resource Becomes a National Security Issue

October 26, 2018
davida

My post for the Wilson Center‘s New Security Beat explores how rare earths–natural ingredients in our smartphones and other electronics–are now a matter of U.S. national security, due to America’s dependence on foreign supplies.

Photo shows mineral ore of rare earths, with small copper penny for scale.

Rare earth ore, shown with a penny for scale.

The fact that finding domestic alternatives for rare earths has become a matter of national security was confirmed by a recent Pentagon report. The United States’ defense, economy, and infrastructure depend on the electronics that rely on these mineral elements. Trade tensions between the United States and China over rare earths illustrate an important dynamic surrounding little-seen building blocks of our daily life, and one that has recurred in our history.

Read the full story–including the search for domestic alternatives and echoes of World War II–on the Wilson Center’s website.

Watch a short video about how the industry around cork, the modern material of another era, became an item of similar importance in the 1940s.


 

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