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Rare earth elements may be a mystery to many people, but they are very important components of many of the items used in homes and offices every day.
While 97 per cent of the world's supply is controlled by China, the US has the third largest reserves of rare earth elements.
But the only US mine where those elements are found is currently inactive, and US officials are beginning to view rare earths as a matter of national priority.
Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Mountain Pass, California, once the site of the world's leading producer of rare earth elements.