China's decision to begin hoarding using it's rare earth metal resources to bolster productivity in Mongolia may have Toyota bracing itself (and making use of its long-term plans) but the news is music to the ears of Molycorp Minerals LLC. They are the company with plans to re-open a Mountain Pass, California mine containing the world's richest proven reserves of rare earth metals. The open-pit quarry had been closed, along with similar operations around the world, after China began producing and exporting large amounts of the resource in the 1990s and causing a steep decline in prices.

It will still take a while before before the neodymium (used in windmills and hybrid motors) and lanthanum (used in nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries) starts flowing again. The pit is currently covered in so much rock and water that it will require a couple years to get going in earnest. Molycorp seems to be making good use of the intervening time, having recently signed a joint venture deal with Arnold Magnetic Technologies Corp to make magnets and perfecting an extraction process they say will double the amount of metal they can remove from the bastnaesite ore. While the mine should eventually be able to supply most of the world's needs, other companies are exploring rare earth mining opportunities in Canada and Australia.

[Source: Reuters]


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