Film Explores Rare Minerals and Rare Landscapes

In the Journey OnEarth film series, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Roshini Thinakaran reports about the people most directly impacted by pollution, oil spills, and toxic chemicals, and communities coping with climate change across the U.S.

NG Emerging Explorer, filmmaker Roshini Thinakaran. Photo by Mark Thiessen.

This text comes from the “Journey OnEarth” team.

There aren’t many places left in America as isolated as the Otero Mesa- a desert grassland in south central New Mexico where hundreds of native wildlife species and plants thrive. But does this rugged landscape also hold the minerals we need to build the technology of the future?

The discovery of these minerals on Wind Mountain has ignited a new front in the campaign to get national monument designation for the Otero Mesa, a desert grassland encompassing 1.2 million acres.

Rare earth elements are an essential in building technology we have come to rely on, for military hardware, smartphones and tablets, and green technology such as hybrid car batteries and wind turbines.

This commercial and political importance is helping rare earth mining companies gain support in the halls of Congress, but conservationists fear allowing any mining would forever transform the wild landscape of the Otero Mesa.

Watch the full film on and explore the issue in depth.


More “Journey on Earth” Film Posts

“After the Gas Rush” Part 1

“After the Gas Rush” Part 2

Human Journey

Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.