This article is from October 2010, Christian Science Monitor.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) also has a good, albiet not-free, article on rare earth metals.
See, nearly everything fun and good in the world, from your iPod, iPhone, iPad, laptop, Droid smartphone, those cool nighttime lights that line your walkway and are powered by solar cells, have some kind of rare earth metal involved in the product.
And most of those important rare earth metals are in China.
Or, conveniently enough, along the Congo River. Another great, easily accessible place, with no trace of corrupt governments or dangerous paramilitary groups for miles.
Sarcasm is hard to broadcast in a blog.
China currently has a lock on these materials. Can turn their supply on/off like tap water. Or, can manipulate their supply, and thus their cost, on a whim.
Therefore, finding alternate resources for these rare earth metals is crucial to future technologies.