MOUNTAIN PASS, Calif.--Here in a hot, dusty corner of the Mojave Desert, some of the world's most prized metals--used in the production of everything from hybrid cars to cell phones to hard disk drives--are being mined from the earth.
Molycorp, a U.S.-based supplier of rare earth minerals, hosted a groundbreaking event Wednesday for its re-opening of the Mountain Pass mining facility, which had been closed since the 1990s. Mining operations are underway, although the $500 million renovation and construction project isn't scheduled to be complete until July 2012.
There has been growing attention being paid to rare earth elements because most of these materials are sourced in China and they are vital to the advancement of clean-energy and other technologies.
Molycorp says the facility will help reduce costs and environmental impacts of the rare-earth-element-mining process, and provides a homegrown source for the elements--17 in all--used in so many national defense, energy, and consumer electronics products.
Here is an overview shot of the facility, taken from a bus tour Molycorp hosted as part of the groundbreaking event.