Rare earths rock green tech and geopolitics

From the Geological Society of America: Critical Minerals Ignite Geopolitical Storm

For Immediate Release 10 October 2011 GSA Release No. 11-66

The clean energy economy of the future hinges on a lot of things, chief among them the availability of the scores of rare earth minerals and other elements used to make everything from photovoltaic panels and cellphone displays to the permanent magnets in cutting edge new wind generators. And right out of the gate trouble is brewing over projected growth in demand for these minerals and the security of their supplies.

Last year, for instance, China restricted the export of neodymium, which is used in wind generators. The move was ostensibly to direct the supplies to toward a massive wind generation project within China. The effect, however, is to create a two-tiered price for neodymium: one inside China and another, higher price, for the rest of the world, explained economics professor Roderick Eggert of the Colorado School of Mines. The result could be that China not only will control the neodymium supply, but the manufacture of neodymium technology as well.

The geopolitical implications of critical minerals have started bringing together scientists, economists and policy makers who are trying to cut a path through the growing thicket of challenges. In that spirit, on Monday, October 10, 2011, Eggert and other professors will be presenting their research alongside high-level representatives from the U.S. Congress and Senate, the Office of the President of the U.S., the U.S. Geological Survey, in a session at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis.

Among the basics that need to be grasped to understand the current state of affairs is how rare these minerals and elements really are. Some are plentiful, but only found in rare places or are difficult to extract. Indium, for instance, is a byproduct of zinc mining and extraction. It is not economically viable to extract unless zinc is being sought in the same ore, Eggert explained, Others are just plain scarce, like rhenium and tellurium, which only exist in very small amounts in the Earth’s crust.

There are basically two responses to this sort of situation: use less of these minerals or improve the extraction of them from other ores in other parts of the world. The latter would seem to be where most people are heading.

“China’s efforts to restrict exports of mineral commodities garnered the attention of Congress and highlighted the need for the United States to assess the state of the Nation’s mineral policies and examine opportunities to produce rare earths and other strategic and critical minerals domestically,” reads the session abstract of Kathleen Benedetto of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural Resources, U.S. House of Representatives. “Nine bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to address supply disruptions of rare earths and other important mineral commodities.”

Benedetto will be explaining the meaning and status of those bills, and what it will take to get them signed into law.

“Deposits of rare earth elements and other critical minerals occur throughout the Nation,” reads the abstract for another prominent session presenter: Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey. She will be putting the current events in the larger historical perspective of mineral resource management, which has been the USGS’s job for more than 130 years. “The definition of ‘a critical mineral or material’ is extremely time dependent, as advances in materials science yield new products and the adoption of new technologies result in shifts in both supply and demand.”

The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has answered the call as well. Cyrus Wadia will be presenting a five-point strategy to begin addressing the matter. The first point is to mitigating long term risks associated with the use of critical materials. The second, diversify supplies of raw materials. Third, to promote a domestic supply chain for areas of strategic importance like clean energy. Fourth, inform decision makers; and fifth, prepare the workforce of the next generation.

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thingadonta

Some of these minerals are no doubt there and available in many places, but not easy to find in commercial quantities. Many universities need to re-introduce mineral exploration geoscience, which has been so poorly funded since the green movement swamped western earth science universities since about the early 1990s.

rokshox

The Nordic ski shop in Crested Butte, CO, eagerly displays posters opposing a proposed molybdenum mine nearby, but will happily sell you molybdenum-based waxes for your skis.

God bless em. The Chinese might save us from the Gore parasites, by inflicting them on their own people.
Talk about taking one for the team. Thank you China.

Richard S Courtney

Friends:
The article says;
“Last year, for instance, China restricted the export of neodymium, which is used in wind generators. The move was ostensibly to direct the supplies to toward a massive wind generation project within China. The effect, however, is to create a two-tiered price for neodymium: one inside China and another, higher price, for the rest of the world, explained economics professor Roderick Eggert of the Colorado School of Mines.”
Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
Every supplier of any commodity has a right to get the highest price for the commodity and can choose to use it personally at whatever cost seems appropriate.
Higher cost to purchasers of a commodity encourages search for alternatives (i.e. alternative sources of the commodity or alternative materials or methods to the commodity) which enhances technology.
Richard

Fourth, inform decision makers Of what? ; and fifth, prepare the workforce of the next generation. for what?
Might I offer a sixth? Recycle older components. One of the richest sources of some rare earths’ is the scrap pile from obsolete equipment.
I’m all in favor of attention brought to the supply of raw and primary materials. Indium doesn’t grow on trees. But at the same time, let’s not commit a “Club of Rome” mistake of assuming a resource base far too limited and underestimate technological ability to substitute other materials. The supply of rare-earths is limited to a great extent by the fact that few people look for them. Raise the demand and the price and that is very likely to change, as will the resource base.
There is an old rule of thumb in Mineral Economics. The is usually only a 10-20 year lifetime of “proved reserves” of almost any mineral asset. On a time-value of money basis, it just doesn’t pay to prove up reserves 20-50 years out. In discussions, always be mindfull of the difference between “reserves” and “resources.”

Richard Courtney.
I seem to remember there was a recent press report of a rare earth find in your neck of the woods. Is that so? Sounds as if some shares in that mine would be worthwhile.
tonyb

Adam Gallon

Richard S Courtney says:
October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am
Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
The problem is, that politicians in the West, have made much noise about all these “green” jobs, that the production of wind subsidy farm equipment will create.
Our crafty oriental suppliers, are making sure that these jobs will be created in China.

Mike Bromley the Kurd

Molon Labe says:
October 10, 2011 at 1:00 am
The Nordic ski shop in Crested Butte, CO, eagerly displays posters opposing a proposed molybdenum mine nearby, but will happily sell you molybdenum-based waxes for your skis.

NIMBY will reign supreme. It so happens that rare earths are commonly associated with ancient metamorphic core complexes and continental shield rocks, in other words, scenic, flagship, world-heritage-type stuff. You can bet that the Homestake Neodymium Mine will be smack dab in the middle of hallowed landscapes. I mean, how did “Telluride” get its name? Not from a population of people who ogle bikers, to be sure. A compound, AuTe2 was the mainstay of that lofty Colorado green boutique, early in its history.

Me

The problem is capitalism is bad,until capitalism works in their favour.

John Marshall

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a big supplier of niobium used in the magnets of wind generators and electric vehicles. Profits go to the DRC government to pay for the civil war in that country. The DRC is neither democratic or a true republic.

Streetcred

The socialist agenda of the CAGW has succeeded in driving carbon intensive industries of Europe and the USA out to China … Australian manufacturing was destroyed by our fabulous Labor governments and their union sycophants in decades past so we don’t have much left to go.
China has been stockpiling mineral resources for ages and will soon have the markets cornered … so Western countries can look forward to their strategic manipulation by China in the years top come.

Peter Dare

No mention, as yet, here of the massive Chinese penetration of central and eastern African countries where Chinese economic aid is being exchanged for mining rights to various valuable mineral resources. British TV has shown several documentaries this year where this policy is proving productive. In South America, also, China is taking great interest in mines in Brazil and Chile. Presumably, western governments are aware of these developments.

Rob

Of course, installing a two-tiered price for any product is a form of government subsidy, in this case subsidy for permanent magnets in (modern) direct-drive wind generators.
China’s government subsidizes any new technology that they feel is important for the long term economic growth of the nation, and alternative energy is at the top of their list.
In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money.
In the end, we’ll see which strategy works better…

TimTheToolMan

Me writes “The problem is capitalism is bad,until capitalism works in their favour.”
This is the inevitable result of China’s slow creep towards capitalism…Conversely it could be stated that Capitalism is good until capitalism works against you and this is the rest of the world’s sour grapes. The dragon awakes.

gbaikie

Option 7 or 8:Indium is more common in space as are many of the rare mineral and PMG metals.

Me

TimTheToolMan Who are the ones first up at the plate to denounce capitalism?
But when there is money to be raked in by the green machine then capitalism is ok all of a sudden.

Peter Miller

The US has some of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, but currently has no operational mines or processing technology.
If a tiny fraction of the money wasted on ‘climate change’ projects was allocated towards the construction of rare earths mining and refining capacity, the US (and the rest of the world) would not being held to ransom by China.
The link below helps illustrate the seriousness of this problem.
http://geology.com/articles/rare-earth-elements/

Bloke down the pub

Easy solution. Western governments stop subsidising the installation of solar panels and wind turbines, demand for these minerals falls through the floor and the Chinese are left holding a load of worthless rock.

TimTheToolMan

Me wonders “Who are the ones first up at the plate to denounce capitalism?”
A “country” doesn’t denounce capitalism, its people do.
And people can and do change.

Ed Fix

Richard S Courtney says:
October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am
“…China restricted the export of neodymium, which is used in wind generators…”
Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
Higher cost to purchasers of a commodity encourages search for alternatives…

The inherent problem is that the alternative is fossil fuel, which is unacceptable to the same folks that find increased mining of these minerals unacceptable. And those folks happen to be in power right now.

Mike McMillan

The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has answered the call as well.
I’m glad the President’s on the case. He will not rest until he has a solution.

John Douglas

LET’S HOPE THAT ANDREA ROSSI IS ABOUT TO END ALL THIS NONSENSE.(LOOKS MORE LIKELY EVERY DAY)
WE MIGHT EVEN BE ABLE TO USE TRANSMUTATION TO SUPPLY VALUABLE ELEMENTS.
P.S. 3D PRINTERS ARE NOW PRODUCING 3D PRINTERS. ARE THEY BREEDING?

Chuckles

The entire article is rubbish. Rare earth minerals are not rare, most are fairly plentiful. What is rare is any money to be made in mining them, and in the USA, large piles of regulations making sure they are not mined.
It’s just a puff piece for this

on Monday, October 10, 2011, Eggert and other professors will be presenting their research alongside high-level representatives from the U.S. Congress and Senate, the Office of the President of the U.S., the U.S. Geological Survey, in a session at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis.

Alan the Brit

Sorry, & completely OT – but had no idea where to post this revelation with limitations!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15199065
It seems it’s the Sun all along but it isn’t, all at the same time – only Eurpoe & Uk, no mention of South American cold winters, not those in SA or Australis/New Zealand, etc. They are runnning out of excuses, running scared, & out of time! They knew they had to get control within certain time limits or the game would be up, as it now is well & truly!
AtB 🙂

Kaboom

One long-term fix is to not let rare earth based products be shipped back to China as scrap after they reached their end of life and mandate recycling in the country/economic sphere where they were sold. Another obviously is looking for the stuff on your own turf and research to replace them with cheaper alternatives or a different technological approach (i.e. no use of permanent magnets in electric motors/generators but use of active stator/rotor coils).

Ian W

Peter Miller says:
October 10, 2011 at 2:19 am
The US has some of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, but currently has no operational mines or processing technology.
If a tiny fraction of the money wasted on ‘climate change’ projects was allocated towards the construction of rare earths mining and refining capacity, the US (and the rest of the world) would not being held to ransom by China.
The link below helps illustrate the seriousness of this problem.
http://geology.com/articles/rare-earth-elements/

The US also has the EPA which generated the regulations forcing the mining companies (and many other industries) to move their operations to other countries and which will also ensure by regulation that the Chinese monopoly in rare-earths is maintained.

Gail Combs

Richard S Courtney says:
Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
_____________________________________________________________
The problem is the USA turned control of whether or not the USA can mine minerals over to the United Nations.
In 1972, our government signed the United Nations’ World Heritage Treaty, a treaty that creates “World Heritage Sites” and Biosphere Reserves.” Since 1972, 68 percent of all U.S. national parks, monuments and preserves have been designated as World Heritage Sites.
The United Nations “protection extends not only to te “Heritages Sites” but also to any areas near by when the Sierra Club, WWF or other NIMBYs scream for help.
“……For example, in the conflicts surrounding the New World Mine near Yellowstone National Park, the Jabiluka Mine near Kakadu National Park, and the Cheviot Mine near Jasper National Park mining interests have been pitted against World Heritage protection in the United States, Australia, and Canada. These disputes evidence the extent to which perceptions of democratic illegitimacy can threaten to undermine a regime created to hold states accountable for the protection of heritage of “outstanding universal value” within their borders….” http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=pelr
In other words the United Nations now controls a LOT of mineral reserves, 168 countries signed the treaty, and is not about to let the nations touch them.
A map of the USA with current and future UN controlled lands: http://sovereignty.net/p/land/mapmabwh.htm
This illustrates the second problem. Even if the mine is located in the USA the minerals maybe OWNED by foreign investors:
FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF U.S. GOLD MINES
Foreign owned mining companies control:
4 of the 5 largest gold mines
7 of the 10 largest gold mines
18 of the 30 largest gold mines, and
65% of total U.S. gold mine production

http://www.earthworksaction.org/pubs/FS_foreignownership.pdf

charles nelson

Apparently in 1894 they mined the ‘streets’ of Kalgoorlie WA for tellurium. 20 years earlier waste rock from gold mining, rich in the element which was of course unkown at the time, had been used as infill/hardcore!

George

And if you are curious of other locations for Nd (even in small concentrations), you can sort through Mindat.org
http://www.mindat.org/lsearch.php?inc=Nd-&exc=

Steve from Rockwood

“Third, to promote a domestic supply chain for areas of strategic importance like clean energy.”
———————–
America is generally anti-mining but now wants to promote a domestic supply chain for clean energy. Hahaha promoting mining and clean energy in the same sentence.That’s like calling for investment in shale-oil to ensure energy is available for the manufacturing of solar panels. Make it easier for mines to open and I suspect that mines will open.
BTW China is a lot more capitalist than the US. Has been for awhile. Don’t confuse capitalism with communism.

China’s take over of Rare Earths
To appreciate China’s stranglehold on the market, see Lynas Corp. What are their prices?
2009 2Q 2011
Cerium Oxide ex China $3.88 $138
Cerium Oxide in China $ 25
i.e., the Chinese have achieved a 3500% increase in prices by predatory pricing – not a bad increase in profit! Such are the consequences of allowing monopolies to form without regulation or coordinated counter action.
This was achieved by China first driving out other rare earth processors by ultra low prices, beginning in 1985 – and by EPA imposing such stringent regulations that US companies gave up trying.
See the presentation Rare Earth Overview 2010 – USGS especially the graph on slide 34/46.
For data see USGS Rare Earths
Compare US DOE Critical Materials Strategy
From the massive recent price increases, that needs to be updated to concerted action.
OPEC Oil Cartel
The far more critical issue world wide is the control OPEC now has over world oil prices. OPEC began constraining supply in 2004/5 to maximize revenues. They tripled prices from ~$27 to $81/bbl, spiking to $147. This pushed the rest of the world into economic chaos. The current economic crises in both the EU and US are currently driven by OPEC control. OPEC is already reaping >>$1 trillion/year in enforced tribute.
Declining Available Oil Exports
More importantly, liquid fuel shortages will soon be driven by geology as light oil supplies decline.
IEA now says conventional crude oil peaked in 2006.
Jeff Brown shows available global oil exports (after China & India consumption) peaked in 2005 and have already declined 12%.
See Brown’s Historical Global and Available Oil Exports graph.
Without wartime emergency action now, we will see similar rises in prices for oil.

Gail Combs

Rob says:
October 10, 2011 at 1:57 am
“…..China’s government subsidizes any new technology that they feel is important for the long term economic growth of the nation, and alternative energy is at the top of their list.
In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money…..”
___________________________________________________
Yeah Right, and If I believe that you have a bridge you want to sell.
Did you some how miss Anthony’s
Your [wasted green] tax dollars at work: Solyndra Went on a Spending Spree After Getting Loan
Electric airplane
Or Willis’s
Act Now! Make Money From Global Warming!: NIH announces climate change and health funding
Or how about these “Stimulus” grants:
Forest Service to Replace Windows in Visitor Center Closed in 2007 (Amboy, WA) – $554,763
“Dance Draw” – Interactive Dance Software Development (Charlotte, NC) – $762,372
Museum With 44 Annual Visitors Gets Funding for Bug Storage (Raleigh, NC) -$253,123
Ants Talk. Taxpayers Listen (San Francisco, CA) – $1.9million

…..photographs of the ants – over 3,000 species’ worth, according to the grant proposal – will be posted on AntWeb, a website devoted to organizing and displaying pictures and information on the world’s thousands of ant species……
Scientist Attempts to Create Joke Machine (Evanston, IL) – $712,883
http://www.darwinsmoney.com/dumb-stimulus-bill-spending/
No wonder the “Taxed Enough Already” Party was formed to protest idiotic waste of our money.

Septic Matthew

Molon Labe wrote: The Nordic ski shop in Crested Butte, CO, eagerly displays posters opposing a proposed molybdenum mine nearby, but will happily sell you molybdenum-based waxes for your skis.
Some of the mine owners in CA and NV are trying to reopen the mines, but are tied up in the environmental review process.

Septic Matthew

John Douglas: LET’S HOPE THAT ANDREA ROSSI IS ABOUT TO END ALL THIS NONSENSE.
Yes, but … the guy does have a history of fraud.

Rare earth prices to stay high as China extends crackdown

This year’s export quota was set at 30,184 tonnes, down about 40 percent in just two years, with annual output also capped at 93,800 tonnes . . .
Currently almost half of China’s total capacity now stands idle as inspection teams scour the country to enforce the quotas and industry consolidation targets, as well as new environmental regulations.

An remarkable example of predatory monopolistic capitalism – enforced in the name of the environment!

More Soylent Green!

We must not allow a rare earth gap! But on the other hand, at least it’s not foreign oil, which props up unfriendly dictatorships!
BTW: /sarc

Ken Harvey

When we come to our senses and start to dismantle those dreadful wind turbines, we will have a great source of rare earth recovery.

Peter

My attitude is that the minerals are not going to evaporate if we don’t mine them. Sooner or later attitudes and technology will change and they will still be there waiting for us to extract them. I was very much against the Canadian Government giving billions to fund the development of oil fields off the coast of Newfoundland, and the oil sands in Alberta. This was not to find the resources. We already knew the oil was there. Sooner or later private industry would pay us for the privlige of extracting it when it was profitable to do so.

Madman2001

Rob says:
“In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money.”
Any subsidization is a waste of tax payer money. Let private investors spend THEIR money, not mine.

MorinMoss

California’s Mountain Pass rare earth mine, once the world’s largest source, and still chock-full of lanthanide goodness, should be back in full production by 2013. It was somewhat shortsighted of the US to allow the production of militarily-strategic materials to be dominated by a foreign power when there was no domestic shortage of the raw materials.
True, China has made the most-favored-nation trade list many times but they are still communists, and have conducted industrial espionage and extensive infringement and theft of IP.
And, instead of rolling back the hard-earned protections of workers and the environment, why did the West not insist that China raise itself up to our standards, for their products to be sold here? It would be unreasonable to have required a complete change for them at the outset but, 30 years on, have their practices changed significantly?

Peter Dare says:
October 10, 2011 at 1:55 am
No mention, as yet, here of the massive Chinese penetration of central and eastern African countries where Chinese economic aid is being exchanged for mining rights to various valuable mineral resources. British TV has shown several documentaries this year where this policy is proving productive. In South America, also, China is taking great interest in mines in Brazil and Chile. Presumably, western governments are aware of these developments.

The US and other governments are assuredly aware, at some level; at the highest level, maybe not—see here:
http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/aimless_obama_walks_alone_OUgoMTkORRJioLl7B6ZYmN
describing a President who speaks only to his political advisors.
The question is whether our government has any intention of doing anything about it. Previous commentators have described how paralyzed the country is by extreme ‘enviro’ ideology, EPA and other over-regulation, and even international agreements taking much of the country off-limits for mining (Gail Combs, October 10, 2011 at 4:55 am). The answer at this point is: clearly “no.”
It will take a massive shake-up in government at all levels to free us from the shackles of rampant environmentalism and its socialist handmaiden. November 2012 can’t come fast enough.
/Mr Lynn

Doug in Seattle

The US all but outlawed mining in most parts of the country and the colleges stopped training new explorationists during the 1990s.
The current state of need is a direct consequence of the above. You reap what you sow. Karma is a b1+ch.

Rob Petrie

Don’t worry about it. Within 5 years most coal, oil, wind, solar – you name it – energy plants will be replaced by Rossi’s Ecat.

Redneck

@Bloke down the pub October 10, 2011 at 2:21 am
That might work if the only use for REEs was in wind turbines and solar panels. However REEs have a wide variety of applications like colour video displays, cell phones, fiber optics, lasers, MRIs, petroleum refining, pollution control systems, lasers, high tech weapons technologies to name just a few.
http://geology.com/articles/rare-earth-elements/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanthanide#Technological_applications
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erbium
Sorry about all the Wikipedia references but for this sort of information I don’t think it really matters as it is just a starting point.

Redneck

@ climatereason October 10, 2011 at 1:21 am
So Tony your interested in investing in REEs. Let me give you a tip. Make sure that the mine or company you plan to invest in has a good ratio of heavy rare earth elements (HREE) to light rare earth elements (LREE). The HREEs are less common and more valuable. Good luck with your investment.

Eric Gisin

I don’t believe rare earths are used in any large windmill generators. Permanent magnets make no sense in generators over a ton.
From Wikipedia: Larger, more costly turbines generally have geared power trains, alternating current output, flaps and are actively pointed into the wind. Direct drive generators and aeroelastic blades for large wind turbines are being researched.

Redneck

@ Chuckles October 10, 2011 at 3:52 am
True enough REEs are not all that rare but economically viable deposits are.

Sundance

Richard S Courtney says:
October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am
Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
Richard, I feel the answer to your question is found in the last paragraph of this announcement in the five step plan outlined by Cyrus Wadia. It has to do with scalibility of current REEs and the problem with existing REEs being used is that they can never provide enough electricity for all 7 billion people on the planet as Cyrus Wadia explains in this video.

Cyrus makes the case that to provide 7 billion people with enough energy to live in modern comfort, requires providing solar PV at an installed cost of $2.00/watt in the USA and $0.75/watt to China and to do this Cyrus outlines a new strategy using iron or copper sulfates and nanotechnology as the only possible way to acheive this. This would provide consumers with electricity at a coat of 5 cents/kWh worldwide. This would mean for example that the average USA homeowner could install solar PV at a cost of roughly $7,000.00 which would provide a investment payback of roughly five years and provide the customer with 25 more years of FREE electricity wheen compared to electricity rates of 9 cents/kWh we now pay on a national basis.
The economic incentive of such a scenario would end all need for political intervention in the form of emissions treaties, which honest people realize will never come to fruition among developed nations (just watch Durban fail). So the announcement is a little misleading in that it is about more than just domestic supplies of material for renewable energy and there is a hidden agenda for a solution for reducung emissions not just for the USA but for the entire world that WON’T RELY on REEs IMO.

Greg Holmes

I deal with China everyday of my working life, I find them industrious, courteous and very canny.
IF I was Chinese and had a reserve of a mineral which was needed within the country I would restrict exports. Since when is it China’s reposnsibility to ensure that the Western businesses are able to function?> The “free world” (sarc) likes free markets, our politicians tells us so when they are protection oil supplies. Follow the green path is the mantra in the West, not for much longer I think. Roll on Nuclear power generation, power to the ATOM I say, Windmils are for the \Dutch, nice and cute but of no substance.

Don Penim

Peter Miller says:
October 10, 2011 at 2:19 am
The US has some of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, but currently has no operational mines or processing technology.

You may want to check out Molycorp who own and operate a rare earth mine and production facility in Mountain Pass, California. Molycorp has one of the largest reserves of rare earths outside of China. The mine started production again in December 2011 and they are in the midst of a huge expansion project including technology upgrades.
http://emi-magazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2052:-molycorp-minerals-llc-&catid=130:featured-content&Itemid=84
http://www.molycorp.com/