Mountain Pass, California, November 15, 2010 - A view of a map of the grounds of the Mountain Pass Mine, owned by Molycorp Minerals, which mines rare earth elements. Rare earth elements - there are 17 in all - are crucial for many current technologies, including mobile phones, wind turbines, hybrid cars, laptops and military hardware, such as Army tank navigation systems and Navy radars. Uranium prospectors discovered the mine at Mountain Pass in 1949 and it became the dominant producer of rare earth elements until the 1990s when pressure from other producers began to drive prices down. That along with a number of leaks of radioactive water during transmission into a evaporation lake 13 miles away and state regulators delaying operating permits forced the mines closure in 2002. Though mining ceased, some processing of already mined elements continued. Molycorp was purchased by Unocal in the 1970s, which in turn was purchased from Chevron. In 2008 it's long-time chief executive, Mark A Smith, purchased in from Chevron with the help of several private equity firms..