There’s a lake hidden in a corner of Inner Mongolia that few people have ever seen in person.
It’s no coincidence that this lake exists in China. The country is home to the world’s largest reserves of “rare Earth elements” (REE’s) — one of the secrets behind it’s explosive economic growth over the past few decades. The lake sits on the outer ring of the city of Baotou. Back in 1950 Baotou had under 100,000 people. The spike in worldwide demand for consumer tech goods has made people flock to the city. Now it has over 2.5 million.
But for every ton of REE’s mined, somewhere 340,000 to 420,000 cubic feet of waste gas made of dust, hydrofluoric acid, sulfur dioxide, and sulfuric acid is released. You also get about 2,600 cubic feet of acidic wastewater and 1 ton of radioactive waste, according to the Chinese Society of Rare Earths