Lanthanum is a chemical element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 with the symbol La and atomic number
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

Lanthanum is a silvery white metallic element that belongs to group 3 of the periodic table and is the first element of the lanthanide
The lanthanide or lanthanoid series comprises the fifteen metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers 57 through 71, from lanthanum through lutetium...

 series. It is found in some rare-earth minerals, usually in combination with cerium
Cerium is a chemical element with the symbol Ce and atomic number 58. It is a soft, silvery, ductile metal which easily oxidizes in air. Cerium was named after the dwarf planet . Cerium is the most abundant of the rare earth elements, making up about 0.0046% of the Earth's crust by weight...

 and other rare earth element
Rare earth element
As defined by IUPAC, rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, specifically the fifteen lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium...

s. Lanthanum is a malleable, ductile, and soft metal that oxidizes rapidly when exposed to air. It is produced from the minerals monazite
Monazite is a reddish-brown phosphate mineral containing rare earth metals. It occurs usually in small isolated crystals. There are actually at least four different kinds of monazite, depending on relative elemental composition of the mineral:...

 and bastnäsite
The mineral bastnäsite is one of a family of three carbonate-fluoride minerals, which includes bastnäsite- with a formula of CO3F, bastnäsite- with a formula of CO3F, and bastnäsite- with a formula of CO3F. Most bastnäsite is bastnäsite-, and cerium is by far the most common of the rare earths in...

 using a complex multistage extraction process.