US lawmakers are growing impatient to break China's monopoly on global production of rare earth elements (REEs), a handful of minerals essential to the manufacture of high-tech gadgets and critical to the development of many new "green" technologies. REEs are actually more abundant than many commonplace industrial metals. In fact, back in 2010, the US Geological Survey (USGS) released a report revealing that 13 million metric tons of rare earths exist within known deposits in 14 US states. However, REEs are typically very difficult to extract. Consequently, the US has not mined REEs in more than a decade, and now we are completely (100 percent) dependent on foreign sources for REEs, 97 percent of which are provided by China. Fortunately, there are new signs that perhaps this trend may be beginning to reverse its course. Late last month, Canada-based Quantum Rare Earths Developments Corp. released preliminary results from test drilling in Elk Creek, Nebraska, where the company says it has found "significant" proportions of REEs and niobium. According to USGS, the Elk Creek site, located south-east of Lincoln, NE, has the potential to be one of the largest resources of niobium and rare earth elements in the world. This find could lead to renewed domestic mining and a decrease in our dependence on foreign sources of REEs. From the Quantum website: The rare earth elements are essential for a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications, which constitute an important part of the industrial economy of the United States. Long-term shortage or unavailability of REE would force significant changes in many technological aspects of American society. Domestic REE sources, known and potential, may therefore become an increasingly important issue for scientists and policymakers in both the public and private sectors. As The Washington Times reports, the only people more excited than Quantum may be the 112 residents of Elk Creek, where nearly one in seven people live under the poverty line, but whose economy has been booming ever since the company showed up late last year to start laying the groundwork for a possible mining bonanza.