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December 23rd, 2010

Rare earth scramble heats up; California mine opening imminent

Published on December 23rd, 2010 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Molycorp’s Mountain Pass mine. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Apparently the DOE’s release of its first Critical Materials Strategy was one in a series of announcements about how various companies and countries are taking bigger steps to lock rare earth elements strategies in place.

• On Dec. 20, the Asian News Network reported that Molycorp will reopen its REE mine in Mountain Pass, Calif., in a matter of a few days using a capital infusion from Sumitomo Corp. The reports says Molycorp has supply agreements with Sumitomo (for seven years) and Mitsubishi Corp.:

“The mine’s redevelopment is costing the company US$531 million. Molycorp has procured funds by listing shares on the New York Stock Exchange, striking a $100 million [actually $130 – ed.] financing deal with Sumitomo and receiving loans from a major French bank. Molycorp aims to save costs by using advanced technology to purify salt water that gushes out during mining operations and to use the purified water. It also plans to generate power using natural gas. The firm hopes to produce about 3,000 tons of rare earths next year, and aims to increase production to about 20,000 by late 2012. It wants to raise the figure to 40,000 eventually.

“In mid-2012, when its rare-earth production is expected to go into full swing, Molycorp plans to maintain output costs at $2.77 per kilogram to better compete with China, where such production costs $5.58 per kilogram.”

• On Dec. 21, Reuters reported that Hitachi announced that it was also was in negotiations with Molycorp:

“Hitachi Metals said in a statement on Tuesday it and Molycorp, a U.S. rare-earth producer, would reach an accord during the first quarter of 2011 on setting up joint ventures to produce neodymium magnet alloys and nodymium magnets. Hitachi Metals and Molycorp will jointly aim to meet rising demand for neogymium magnets for gas-electric hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, wind turbines and industrial motors, Hitachi Metals said.”

• Reuters also reported that Japanese conglomerate Sojitz Corp. had reached an agreement with Australian mining company Lynas, and that a branch of Toyota would be building and opening a REE processing plant in India in 2012.

 


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