Monday, July 25, 2011

Looking for rare earth

In a windblown, desolate and, according to some people, beautiful landscape in southern Otero County, environmentalists and profit-seekers wage battle. For the past 10 years, Otero Mesa has been the center of controversy during a time in which the United States is looking at itself for natural resources. In the midst of all this, one group of people simply want to keep their way of life, the heritage they have shared in the desert and mountain world for four generations. The ranchers, as Bobby Jones puts it, find themselves caught between "two 800-pound gorillas." Jones, too, is a rancher. In the newest face-off on Otero Mesa, a mining company, Geovic Mining Corp., has staked more than 160 claims on Wind Mountain, the tallest peak in the Cornudas range, Jones said. Wind Mountain is also central in the Jones Ranch grazing allotment. Rare earth minerals are used in high-tech equipment, Jones said. "They use it for everything from defense technology to cell phones," he said. "There are 16 metals in the rare earth group." Rare earth has become important because China produces all of it and now has reduced its export production by 72 percent, Jones said. "If America wants to maintain its position in the world, we have to use our own resources," he said. Jones is caught in the middle. He doesn't want to see his grazing abilities affected, especially in this time of drought, but he feels the country does have to look on its own lands for what it needs. "Miners have the right to produce these minerals," He said. "I don't want to see them there. It will also change my lifestyle, but not put us out of business."...more

No comments: