An Acid-Spilling Mine Turned This Colorado River Bright Orange

This time of year kayaks and inner tubes crowd the crystal-clear waters of the Animas River, which flows through the western Colorado city of Durango. Last night, the river was quickly abandoned as one million gallons of wastewater seeping from a local mine slowly trickled downstream, eventually coloring the entire… »8/07/15 1:40pm8/07/15 1:40pm

The Strange Second Life of America's Only Rare Earth Mine

Rare earth elements are hard-to-find metals that we need for batteries, solar cells and electronics. These days, they’re mostly mined and processed in China. But it wasn’t always so. The history of rare earth elements is surprising, and some of it even takes place in America’s backyard. In fact, there is still a rare… »5/05/15 2:00pm5/05/15 2:00pm

These Vases Are Actually Made From Liquified Smartphone Byproducts

It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but your smartphone—or your laptop, or the battery in your hybrid car—created a huge amount of toxic and radioactive waste. And now we know what happens to that waste in the long term. It returns to the earth, mingles with sludge, and finds its way into clay pots. »4/22/15 1:35pm4/22/15 1:35pm

What All the Metal From a Single Mine Would Look Like As a Giant Orb

Of all the ways humans have altered the Earth, mining must be one of the most awesome—just for the sheer ratio of Earth excavated to metals and gems recovered. Still, it's hard to visualize just how much a single mine has netted in numbers, which is why For What It's Worth is so interesting. »8/18/14 9:00am8/18/14 9:00am

The Nearly Mile-Wide Diamond Mine That Helped Build the Soviet Union

Building empires takes money. And building industrial empires takes diamonds, not just for cash, but for the machines and tools that need them to operate. In a remote corner of Siberia, the Mir diamond mine was responsible for funneling diamonds into building the USSR—and it left behind a pit that stretches almost a… »6/20/14 12:13pm6/20/14 12:13pm

China Is Building Fake Islands to Bolster Its Claim to Disputed Waters

Pity the poor mapmaker assigned to the South China Sea. The hotly disputed waters in the Pacific are torn between competing claims from all the countries that surround it. China, especially, has been aggressive and sly. It's now dumping sand onto small reefs and shoals, building whole new islands to bolster its… »6/18/14 7:00pm6/18/14 7:00pm