There are 17 elements from the periodic table of elements that are considered rare earth metals, and they are used to make products we use every day, in addition to military defense applications.
Although the U.S. was once the top exporter of the metals (the majority of which once came from a mine in Mountain Pass, CA), China took the reigns as it started to mass mine for the elements with its abundant resources, cheap labor and less strict environmental laws, driving down global prices and demand. Dependence on China became especially dangerous when political disputes between China and Japan led to a halt in exports of rare earth metals to Japan, whom the U.S. relies on to make many of its technological products.
And though the Mountain Pass mine reopened in 2012 with promises of using new, improved technology, its stocks have gone down by over 70% since then.
What will the U.S. government do about this?
These photos show the products we use every day and are made out of, or were made using, rare earth metals.