A rare earth mine in the Mojave Desert
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Video

US in scramble for technological 'gold dust'

Raw materials like oil have been strategic assets and fought over for many years.

But a vital ingredient driving the latest technology is only found in a few parts of the world.

Scandium, Neodymium or Dysprosium might not be familiar names but they are rare 'earth elements' and are in everything from iPads to wind turbines.

Right now 97% of these materials are produced in China and their cost has gone up 1000% in one year.

It is worrying America and has revived an ailing industry.

Alastair Leithead reports.

  • 12 Jul 2011
Go to next video: Why are rare earth elements so important?