In The Mojave Desert, California, The Rebirth Of America’s Only Rare Earth Mine – by David Sadler (Globe Echo – January 3, 2023)


On the road that leads from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, through the Mojave Desert, the place goes unnoticed, between some Joshua trees, after the borders of the State of California. Five years ago, the Mountain Pass mine, bankrupt and abandoned, had only eight employees. Now it’s a beehive.

At the bottom of a 150-meter chasm, a Caterpillar truck, which seems very small, climbs up from the rocks: the monster weighs more than 100 tons. It is crushed in a crusher, then lifted by water, which makes it possible to isolate a precious ore, which is then roasted and chemically treated with salt water.

At Mountain Pass, we are not in a mine, but in a factory which aims to manufacture magnets from the famous “rare earths”. With the electric revolution at work, intended to decarbonize the planet, copper is needed to transport electricity, lithium to make batteries and magnets to equip electric motors or wind turbine rotors.

These magnets are made from “rare earths”, a group of seventeen metals which are not rare, contrary to what their name suggests, but low in concentration, expensive and polluting to exploit.

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