Mining in progress
Acids, typically hydrochloric, were formally used to extract the rare earth elements from the bastacite, resulting in a highly acidic saltwater byproduct. That was made radioactive from naturally occurring thorium and radium. Huge evaporation ponds stored the radioactive byproduct wastewater, and over time leaks caused massive environmental damage to the nearby Ivanpah Dry Lake area. In 2002, after a series of violations, the Mountain Pass facility was closed.
April 22, 2011 4:00 AM PDT
Photo by: James Martin/CNET
| Caption by: James Martin
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