• 35 mins Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 2 hours Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 3 hours Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 4 hours Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 5 hours Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 7 hours New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 8 hours Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 9 hours Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 16 hours Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 21 hours British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 1 day Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 1 day Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 1 day Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 1 day OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 1 day London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 1 day Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 1 day Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 2 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 2 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 2 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 2 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 2 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 2 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 3 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 3 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 3 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 3 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 3 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 3 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 3 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 3 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 3 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
  • 4 days U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 4 days Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 4 days Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 4 days EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 4 days Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 4 days Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
  • 7 days Trump Passes Iran Nuclear Deal Back to Congress
  • 7 days Texas Shutters More Coal-Fired Plants
Alt Text

World’s Biggest Miner Prepares For The EV Boom

The world’s top mining company…

Alt Text

Busting The Lithium Bubble Myth

Lithium demand continues to grow…

Ag Metal Miner

Ag Metal Miner

MetalMiner is the largest metals-related media site in the US according to third party ranking sites. With a preemptive global perspective on the issues, trends,…

More Info

Growing Controversy over Molycorp’s Plans to Mine Rare Earth Elements

Growing Controversy over Molycorp’s Plans to Mine Rare Earth Elements

On Tuesday, the New York Times ran a story stating Molycorp, currently America’s only operating rare earth materials producer, will soon announce a heavy rare earth metal deposit right near its Mountain Pass operations. In addition, Molycorp has mining rights and regulatory approval for the deposit to “continue for decades.” According to the story, Molycorp CEO Mark Smith said in a phone interview on Monday that the company might be able to produce heavy rare earth metals in a little over a year. The heavy rare earths in the deposit include: europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium, according to Technology Metals Research. But instead of celebrating the “new” discovery (clearly Molycorp owners knew of this ore deposit for some amount of time), a mild controversy has ensued around the timing and motivation of the announcement.

What About the Timing?

According to Technology Metals Research, some of the comments it has received from readers follow this line of thought: “It’s no secret that Molycorp recently has its investment rating cut from overweight to neutral by JP Morgan, and that the company’s share price is at a fraction of its 52-week high.” In fact, Technology Metals Research co-founder Jack Lifton had this to say about the announcement.

“…Let me get this straight: in a solvent exchange (SX) plant not yet built, not yet proven in, or run up to capacity after the proving-in bugs are worked out, Molycorp is going to run process leach solution (PLS) from an ore concentrate that it has not yet determined can be produced, with an extraction efficiency that it has not yet determined to be economical – this additional HREE-containing PLS will be run simultaneously or on top of the PLS derived from the Mountain Pass bastnaesite concentrate – which has not yet been run in the new plant. All this in a year…This is complete and utter engineering and chemical nonsense.
Other than that – it’s a great story.”

In addition, TMR suggested:

“It’s something of an understatement to say that these communications from Molycorp contain some pretty bold claims. To be able to process the materials at the new HREE prospect in little over a year, as claimed by Mr. Smith, likely assumes that there are no modifications to either the budget, schedule or construction plans for the company’s new processing facility. Does this mean that Molycorp knew all along that it would potentially be including materials from this prospect, in its overall processing capabilities?”

We’ve heard stranger claims, but we take no position on the veracity of Molycorp’s announcement. What we do know for sure involves this – when manufacturers face a squeeze with their supply options, they respond with an engineering/problem-solving mindset.

So let’s assume we don’t view the world cynically. Why would Molycorp make this announcement at this time? The Times piece by Keith Bradsher offers up one compelling reason that we have discussed at length previously – “product substitution.” In other words, Molycorp may have gone to market with these findings to reassure a manufacturing buying audience that before it undertakes costly product engineering and re-design activities to drive substitution, an alternative, viable long-term source of domestic supply exists.

A second explanation for the announcement may simply involve timing. Molycorp may have wished to assure that same manufacturing audience that ample supply exists to counter the reduced global demand outlook for rare earth metals as quoted by the Times from industry expert Dudley Kingsnorth.

No matter Molycorp’s rationale or timing of its announcement, buying organizations won’t wait around for alternatives. As we said at the peak of 2008, “nothing kills high prices like high prices.”

By. Lisa Reisman

MetalMiner is the largest metals-related media site in the US according to third party ranking sites. With a preemptive global perspective on the issues, trends, strategies, and trade policies that will impact how you source and/or trade metals and related metals services, MetalMiner provides unique insight, analysis, and tools for buyers, purchasing professionals, and everyone else for whom metals and their related markets matter.




Back to homepage


Leave a comment

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News