The minerals known as rare earths sound like something an alchemist would use to turn lead into gold. But the minerals are what make the modern world function. Rare earths are used in cell phones, hybrid cars, wind turbines and computers.
China mines most of these minerals, but it's been cutting back on exports. This has caused the price of rare earths to soar, which has once again made it profitable to reopen a long-shuttered mine in California.
Full story from NPR
Previous story: China cuts rare-earth quotas for 2011 (Bloomberg)