PC World reports a major U.S. mine for rare earth metals has gone back into production. The Mountain Pass, California, mining site from Molycorp was shut down in 2002 amid environmental concerns and cut-throat competition from Chinese mining operations but rising prices have prompted Molycorp to resume operation.
China produced about 124,000 tons of rare earth metals last year, representing more than 90 percent of world's supply. Molycorp aims to produce 20,000 tons of rare earths by the end of 2012.
Rare earths encompass a group of 17 metals that are vital to the miniaturizing of electronic components such as magnets and capacitors. China mines more than 90 percent of the world's current demand for them, according to analysts. But the country has been tightening control of its supplies, causing concerns among countries like the U.S. and Japan, which import rare earth metals.
Those fears came into the spotlight when in September media outlets reported that China had stopped exporting rare earths to Japan following a diplomatic spat. While Chinese officials have said the country will not use the resources as a bargaining chip, the government announced earlier this month it was raising export tariffs on certain rare earths.