• Mining

    In 2011, the Herald began covering two emerging mining projects in the newspaper’s readership area. In both projects, companies plan to extract heavy metals known as rare earth elements from the volcanic rock of local mountains; Texas Rare Earth Resources (TRER) is pursuing a mining project at Round Top Mountain, in the Sierra Blanca Range, near the Hudspeth County seat, while Geovic Mining Corp is targeting rock in Wind Mountain, a 7,200-foot peak north of Dell City and just across the state line in New Mexico. In addition to rare earths, TRER plans to mine uranium at its Round Top Project. TRER envisions removing much of Round Top Mountain to extract the metals, while Geovic describes a “low-impact” project that would tunnel under the mountain and remove material from within. Rare earths are crucial for many contemporary technologies – from handheld consumer electronics and laptops to wind turbines, missiles and night-vision goggles. China produces almost all of the world’s rare earths, and the increasing importance of the metals and concerns about the reliability of the Chinese supply have prompted a small global rush to develop new sources. In addition to meeting a need for the resources, the mining projects could contribute to local economic development. Though both companies have stressed their intentions to be environmentally responsible, the projects also raise environmental concerns. Rare earths often occur in conjunction with radioactive elements, and the Mountain Pass mine, a rare earth site in California, was shut down for a time after regulators learned that hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic and radioactive fluid had been released into the surrounding desert.