In this 1905 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey are tailings from hydraulic mines on Spring Creek in Nevada County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)

Associated Press
In this 1905 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey are tailings from hydraulic mines on Spring Creek in Nevada County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
In this 1905 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey are tailings from hydraulic mines on Spring Creek in Nevada County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
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