In Mountain Pass Mine, California located in the Mojave Desert, the mine could hold the key to the US challenging China’s technological domination of the 21st century.
At the bottom of the vast site, beneath many metres of water, runs a rich seam of ores that are rapidly emerging as the building blocks of our high-tech future.
The mine is the largest known deposit of rare-earth elements outside of China. Eight years ago, it was closed in a tacit admission the US was ceding the market to China. Now the owners of the mine have secured final approval to restart operations and hope to begin production soon.
China controls 97 per cent of global rare-earth metals production. Such total domination of a strategic resource became impossible to ignore in October when China cut exports of rare-earth elements by more than 70 per cent compared with the previous year, disrupting manufacturing in Japan, Europe and the US.
Prices of even the cheapest of the 17 rare-earth elements rose by 40 per cent. Exports will be cut a further 11 per cent in the first half of this year.
My Two Cents: Without these elements we cannot manufacture the equipment for the technology we require, unless we locate these elements elsewhere, or pay huge prices to China. Its basic economics, supply vs demand.