Rare earths are a group of 17 elements with unique chemical, magnetic and luminescent properties crucial for the functioning of much of today’s high technology equipment, including MRIs, lap-top computers, hybrid vehicles and LEDs. They also have important applications in the defence industry. China is the dominant supplier of rare earth elements (REEs), meeting at least 85% of global demand. In 2010, REEs were splashed across the front pages of newspapers when it significantly reduced rare earth export quotas and temporarily suspended their shipment to Japan. Consumers quickly recognised that diversity of reliable supply is just as important as price and quality, and there is a concerted effort to replace, reduce and recycle REEs. So are REEs best understood as simple commodities, or as strategic resources that can be used as tools of statecraft? And can Australia play a part in the development of alternative reliable sources of rare earths? To help understand the strategic importance of REEs the National Security College and Crawford School of Public Policy welcome two global experts in the field.