- © 2012 by the Mineralogical Society of America
The rare earth elements (REEs) are all around us, not only in nature but in our everyday lives. They are in every car, computer, smartphone, energy-efficient fluorescent lamp, and color TV, as well as in lasers, lenses, ceramics, and more. Scientific applications of these elements range from tracing the provenance of magmas and sediments to studying body structures with magnetic resonance imaging. The realization that we need rare earths for so many applications, but that their supply is effectively restricted to several mining districts in China, has brought these elements to the headlines and created a critical-metals agenda. Here we introduce the REE family: their properties, minerals, practical uses, and deposits. Potential sources of these elements are diverse and abundant if we can overcome the technical challenges of rare earth mining and extraction in an environmentally and socially responsible way.