U.S. rare earth imports by country 2015-2018

This statistic depicts the distribution of U.S. rare earth imports between 2015 and 2018, sorted by country. In that period, some 80 percent of rare earth imports into the United States originated from China.

Rare earth industry

A large proportion of rare earth imports to the United States originate from China. Malaysia and Japan both account for another four percent each. Rare earths include minerals such as scandium, yttrium, and lanthanides and range in abundance in their presence in the earth’s crust. The problem is that they are dispersed and often it is difficult to find economically exploitable deposits. These minerals are commonly used in a variety of industries and are essential in manufacturing cellphones, missile systems, and hybrid car batteries among others.

In 2010, China announced a decrease in their rare earth quota and prices increased dramatically. Prices flew from 13.13 U.S. dollars per kilogram in the first quarter of 2010 to almost 60 U.S. dollars per kilogram at the end of October 2010. In 2015, the quota was abolished. However, during the scare, there was never a shortage and in fact, there is now a surplus of many of the minerals. In 2012, China produced 80,400 metric tons of light rare earths and 13,400 metric tons of heavy rare earths. As of 2019, the country was estimated to have about 44 million metric tons of rare earth oxides (REO) in reserves.

Distribution of U.S. rare earth imports between 2015 and 2018, by country

Share of total imports
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Release date

February 2020


United States

Survey time period

2015 to 2018

Supplementary notes

REO = rare earth oxides.

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Statistics on "Rare earths"

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