"When the World Trade Organization ruled this week that China must again start exporting rare earth elements key to manufacturing high tech and defense products, traders and the markets that need the materials rejoiced. But less happy were the Chinese who claim complying will hurt the environment.
China produces more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth metals, a group of 17 elements used in a wide variety of applications, including smartphones, wind turbines and industrial catalysts, Reuters reported.
Although rare earths are strategically important, mining for the precious resource poses an environmental hazard. Toxic tailings can take over ponds and soil can be rendered unfit for farming by concentrated acids used to leach ores. Each pound of rare earth mined results in outputs of hundreds or thousands of pounds of waste, experts claim."