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A voyage to Baotou: world’s biggest supplier of rare earth minerals

BBC reporter Tim Maughan travels to Inner Mongolia and Baotou, an industrial city in China responsible for mining and manufacturing many high end electronic gadgets that rely on rare earth minerals. What he finds causes despair:

And there’s no better place to understand China’s true sacrifice than the shores of Baotou toxic lake. Apparently created by damming a river and flooding what was once farm land, the lake is a “tailings pond”:  a dumping ground for waste byproducts.

We reached the shore, and looked across the lake. I’d seen some photos before I left for Inner Mongolia, but nothing prepared me for the sight. It’s a truly alien environment, dystopian and horrifying. The thought that it is man-made depressed and terrified me, as did the realisation that this was the byproduct not just of the consumer electronics in my pocket, but also green technologies like wind turbines and electric cars that we get so smugly excited about in the West. Unsure of quite how to react, I take photos and shoot video on my cerium polished iPhone.

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