In this December 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory, materials scientist Ryan Ott, left, and research technician Ross Anderson examine an ingot of magnesium and rare-earth metals as part of a project to optimize the process to reclaim rare earths from scraps of rare-earth-containing magnets in Ames, Iowa. 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 thereís 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. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory)

Associated Press
In this December 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory, materials scientist Ryan Ott, left, and research technician Ross Anderson examine an ingot of magnesium and rare-earth metals as part of a project to optimize the process to reclaim rare earths from scraps of rare-earth-containing magnets in Ames, Iowa. 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 thereís 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. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory)
In this December 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory, materials scientist Ryan Ott, left, and research technician Ross Anderson examine an ingot of magnesium and rare-earth metals as part of a project to optimize the process to reclaim rare earths from scraps of rare-earth-containing magnets in Ames, Iowa. 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 thereís 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. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory)
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