Journalist and book author Guillaume Pitron explains the barriers to getting those minerals out of the ground and putting them to use.
The U.S. is in a quiet race driven by national and economic security to reestablish a domestic supply chain for rare earth elements.
Despite their name, rare earths are common. And now countries besides China, like Malaysia, are exploring how to make money mining for the key component in electronics.
The Obama administration is taking China to the World Trade Organization saying it's not playing fair with those crucial raw materials.
It takes a lot of what are called rare earths to make the electronics that keep us going in the 21st century. The Obama Administration believes China is holding back its supply of these special metals to drive up prices and now the U.S. , the European Union, and Japan are taking their beef about China to the World Trade Organization.