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A once-shuttered California mine is trying to transform the rare-earth industry

1 min read

Grist reporter Maddie Stone writes about a U.S.-based rare-earth supply chain that could boost clean energy and electric vehicles — and military weapons.

In a nutshell:

MP Materials, the owner of the Mountain Pass mine in southeastern California, aims to build a greener rare-earth supply chain in the US, offering an alternative to the environmentally damaging practices prevalent in Asia. The increasing demand for rare-earth magnets, particularly in the electric vehicle and wind energy sectors, is driving MP Materials' efforts to diversify the global supply chain. But experts caution that sustainability should be prioritized, including through the recycling of rare earths and minimizing new mining.

Key quote:

From an environmental perspective, MP Materials’ water recycling process process is “a really big deal,” said geographer Julie Klinger. “It significantly reduces their waste footprint.”

Big picture:

By processing rare earths domestically, MP Materials aims to reduce reliance on countries known for their environmentally damaging mining and processing practices. This shift, particularly undertaken in a country with more robust regulation, is lauded as an important step in reducing pollution problems associated with rare-earth production. The company's focus on greener practices, such as water recycling and chemical re-use, will further reduce the environmental footprint. At the same time, reducing mining for rare earths is key to keeping the industry sustainable: According to Klinger, that could be done by prioritizing its renewable energy uses over military uses, and by increasing rare-earth recycling.

Read the full article at Grist.

About the author(s):

EHN Staff

Articles written and posted by staff at Environmental Health News

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