Mountain Pass Mine in southeastern California  •

Mountain Pass Mine in southeastern California 

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the largest rare-earth element mine in the United States. The mine is located in the Mojave Desert in Mountain Pass, California.

“The mine displays a gold color within an open-pit area that extends 800 meters (2,600 feet) across and more than 180 meters deep. Underlying the mine pit are carbonatite deposits that host bastnaesite – a major source of rare earth elements,” says NASA.

“Discovery of the mine’s rare-earth elements happened by accident. In 1949, three prospectors sought uranium in the Clark Mountain Range in the midst of high demand for the element during the developing Cold War.”

“However, instead of uranium, the prospectors struck bastnaesite, which contains rare-earth elements found in familiar gadgets we use today, such as the magnets in speakers, microphones, vibration monitors in mobile phones, and other modern communication devices.”

Rare-earth elements include 17 metallic elements that are found in Earth’s crust. These elements are rarely found in concentrations abundant enough to be mined.

The image was captured on December 25, 2022 by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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