Rare earths are important components of consumer electronics – the minerals mined from the earth make the small, portable powerful electronics in demand this holiday season possible. With exotic names like Yttrium, Europium, Olmium, Thlulim and Praseodymium, these minerals found dispersed throughout the world are vital to modern life, making everything from LEDs to X-Ray machines possible.

Nearly all of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals is produced in China. While the minerals are available elsewhere in the world – a U.S. Geological Survey study from 2010 estimates deposits of 13 million tons of rare earth minerals in 14 states – extracting the minerals can be a difficult and expensive process.

Still, the exploitable rare earths deposits are a finite resource, and one that is controlled by a Chinese monopoly. With this mind, companies are looking at ways to mine rare earths from non-Chinese sources, both from the ground…

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