Digging for rare earths: The mines where iPhones are born

The rare-earth mineral mine in Mountain Pass, Calif., run by Molycorp.
(Credit: Jay Greene/CNET)
MOUNTAIN PASS, Calif. — About 60 miles southwest of Las Vegas, in a mine some 500-feet deep, the beginnings of an iPhone come to life.
But the sleek, shiny iPhone is far, far removed from the rocks pulled out of this giant hole, which looks like a deep crater on the moon. A very deep crater. The ground is covered with rust-colored boulders, rocks, and pebbles. The walls etched with striations in varying shades of black, are notched, every 75 feet or so, creating steps that only a giant could…

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