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Where Molycorp mines rare earth elements (panoramas)

Here's a view overlooking Molycorp's facility in Mountain Pass, Calif., the only rare earth element mine in the United States.

MOUNTAIN PASS, Calif.--Here in a hot, dusty corner of Southern California desert, a set of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table--so critical to advanced technology industries that they're a matter of national security--are being unearthed.

Molycorp's rejuvinated $500 million facility, now under construction and set for completion in July 2012, will reduce the environmental impacts of the rare-earth-element-mining process and dramatically cut costs, providing a homegrown source for the elements used in so many national defense, energy, and consumer electronics products.

This week, I toured the facility here, the only place in the United States that is producing these critical elements of technology.