Battle with China for REEs Continues

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"Congressional research estimates U.S. holds 13% of world's REE reserves."

Concerns over America's lack of rare earth minerals production has prompted Congress' research arm to raise the question: Is the United States' national security and economic well-being vulnerable to supply disruptions, particularly from China?

The U.S., once self-reliant when it came to rare earth minerals, now depends 100% on imports for elements used in the manufacture of wind turbines, batteries for hybrid cars, air bag sensors, MRI machines and missiles, among others items.

Global demand for rare earth elements is estimated at 134,000 tons per year, but supply is running at 124,000 tons. For now, the difference is being covered by surplus supplies that were previously mined. By 2012, demand is expected to reach 180,000 tons annually, while new mining projects may take 10 years to increase supply.

Proposals have been introduced in Congress to help restart U.S. production of rare earth minerals. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the United States holds 13% of the world's reserves of rare earth elements, but mines nothing. China has 36% of reserves, but is responsible for 97% of the world’s production. Another 19% of reserves are located in Russia.

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