You probably haven’t even heard of the metals du jour, but now you can invest in them. Van Eck began trading the first rare-earth metals exchange traded fund (ETF) today.

Market Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals ETF (NYSEArca: REMX) is intended to give investors the opportunity to play the fast-growing interest in minor metals, which are popularly used in rechargable batteries in electric and hybrid cars, as well as computers, cell phones and more. China controls 97% of the world’s supply of these metals, however.

REMX holds 24 companies involved in the production, refining and mining of as many as 49 of these metals. The expense ratio is 0.57%. The ETF is primarily mid-cap and small-cap companies. The country breakdown is Australia (23.9%), Canada (19.8%), the United States (18.8%) and China (14.8%).

Investing in rare earth metals comes with some risks, according to the Van Eck fact sheet. Some of them include pricing sensitivities, financing risks, geopolitical developments and the success of various exploration projects. Given China’s heavy control over the metals, any change in China’s export policies could also have an impact on industries that use these metals.

Rare Earth metals are important to the global economy. In recent years, they have become crucial to high-tech products, renewable energy sources, medical devices and the automotive industry, to name a few. [Lithium ETFs Gets Institutional Attention.]

The demand, and need for a rare earth ETF is high right now, however, with only a limited number of mining companies out side of China, and a lack of available materials for physical purchase, the creation of a viable ETF is challenging, reports Michael Montgomery for Resource Investing News.

ETF Expert Gary Gordon points out a few other ways to get exposure to rare-earth metals, including the new Van Eck fund:

  • Guggenheim China Small Cap (NYSEArca: HAO): Gordon’s thesis is that the middle-class Chinese consumer accounts for 60% of the world’s rare earth metal consumption; that is, the Chinese consumer is responsible for buying the most electric and hybrid cars, which can’t be made without at least one rare-earth metal.
  • Global X China Consumer ETF (NYSEArca: CHIQ): This ETF capitalizes on Chinese consumption of rare earth metals as well the increasingly consumer-driven Chinese economy.
  • Global X Lithium (NYSEArca: LIT): Lithium is one of the best-known minor metals. Lithium batteries are used in hybrid cars, cell phones and much more.

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Mr. Lydon serves as an independent trustee of certain mutual funds and ETFs that are managed by Guggenheim Investments; however, any opinions or forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Mr. Lydon and not those of Guggenheim Funds, Guggenheim Investments, Guggenheim Specialized Products, LLC or any of their affiliates. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.