The Mescalero Apache tribe of New Mexico says it is looking to expand it's economy by mining rare earth elements. The elements are highly sought after for their applications in high-tech and green industries.
For decades, China has controlled up to 97 percent of the world's rare earth supply, and in the last three years, have cut exports of those elements by more than 70 percent.
Without rare earths, a lot of technology relied upon on every day doesn't work: cell phones, computer hard drives, radar systems, lasers and hybrid vehicle batteries.
That's where the Mescalero Apache come in. Since China's cutback on rare earth exports, entities in Australia, Canada and the United States have been searching for more of the stuff. And in the northeastern portion of the Mescalero reservation, two key elements are known to exist.
Before mining can get started, the Mescalero Apache have to complete feasibility studies, explore how much of the two elements can be successfully mined, and get about 2,500 tribal members to vote on the project — which would include mining Pajarito Mountain, a site considered sacred by the tribe.
The current timeline is around eight years to complete studies and get the project up for a vote.