Back in 1998, an “environmental disaster” shut Molycorp’s Mountain Pass open pit mine. Up until then, most of the rare earth metals used to manufacturer everything from cellphones to wind turbines were produced there, but the cost grew too high. Ten-plus years later, China’s resource brinksmanship has brought the facility back to life.
When you’ve got the need to know, pull them apart and figure things out, it can be pretty consuming. That said, Kyle Wiens of iFixIt fame is that kind of person.
In fact, according to The Atlantic, he hauled himselfup into the Mojave Desert to have a look at the Molycorp Mountain Pass rare earth metal mine.
While most electronics are still manufactured in China, plants are opening around the world. The electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn, for example, has several plants in Europe, India, and Mexico, and is about to open a plant in Brazil. All of these plants are currently subject to China’s export taxes and artificial limitations of supply — if Mountain Pass production is as high as expected, that may change.
Yes, rare earth metals are vitally important and they are once again being produced here in the land of milk and Honey Nut Cheerios — good for us.
So, aside from climbing a canyon wall and snapping photos of a rare earth metals mine, what if anything is there to do in the Mojave?