"A mine in Mountain Pass, Calif., was once the world's leading producer of so-called rare earth minerals, which are used in everything from missile systems to electric cars. But the mining was stopped in 2002 after a leak of radioactive fluid. China's lower-cost operations, technical superiority and lax environmental rules propelled it to become the dominant producer, and today it accounts for 95 percent of the world's supply.
But China's recent embargo on shipments on the crucial minerals to the United States, Europe and Japan raised new concerns about Beijing's monopoly, and added urgency to efforts by other countries to develop their own source of the minerals, for which demand is growing."
The New York Times published this debate online November 8, 2010.