MAKE friend Kyle Wiens (iFixit) takes a trip to the only American rare earth metals mine, in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

That big hole in the ground? It’s a pit mine at the Molycorp Mountain Pass rare earth facility in California’s Mojave Desert. Metals mined from pits like that were used to make the cell phone in your pocket and the computer screen you’re staring at right now. I visited Molycorp two weeks ago, as part of our investigation into the sources and consequences of consumer electronics manufacturing.

Kyle tells about the history of the plant, why production ceased in 2002, and how it kicked back up in 2009. Click through to read more. [Via A Visit to the Only American Mine for Rare Earth Metals – Fixers – Technology – The Atlantic.]