Discovery of Rare Earth Deposits May End Dependence on China

It seems recently that everything good comes from China. In the department of rare earth elements, however, there is some promising news or the U.S. Currently, the the world depends on China for its supply of rare earth elements, but Molycorp Minerals announced last week that it has found significant ore deposits containing heavy rare earth elements at a mine the company owns in Mountain Pass, CA, according to a report in Technology Review. The company also announced that it foresees beginning production in two years, but there are questions about whether the mine will live up to its promises. Multiple are earth elements are often found at the same site, with light elements generally more prevalent that heavy elements. These materials are crucial for a variety of electronic components and equipment, including LCD screens, fluorescent light bulbs, and industrial magnets used in hybrid car batteries and in wind turbines.

Global rare earth element production (1 kt=106...

The search for more mining sites is on, as the world becomes increasingly dependent on Chinese sources. A number of sites are being investigated in Canada, Alaska, and Australia, according to Technology Review, but only Molycorp's California site has been declared a viable new source. For more insights into whether Molycorp will be successful and what it's investing in the new site, see the full article in Technology Review.

Do you think the US will regain dominance in the rare earth elements market in the next decade?


Robert S's picture

It has been interesting to hear the press coming out of Mountain Pass as they assess the business environment for their mine. I had previously read that they initially shut the mine because China made the ore so cheap it wasn't worth doing business there. China supplies 95% of the world market because everyone else gave up. Now that China is rattling the markets, it may make sense to open again. Given the capital costs to open and close a mine, it sounds like they are waiting until the prices hit a stable high point before going back in.