Deal would lead to California mine supplying rare-earth metals market


As you may know, Tech Out is affiliated with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and The Sun of San Bernardino. The writers who contribute to this blog usually post about games, movies and other topics related to consumer electronics and entertainment. Those topics will continue to be Tech Out’s focus, but I would also like to use this space to spotlight some of the technology and science coverage at the Daily Bulletin and Sun, as well as our sister papers within the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
Today’s issue of the Daily Bulletin includes business editor Rebecca Cho’s article on Molycorp’s tentative deal with Tokyo-based Hitachi Metals to produce neodymium magnets. Molycorp is based in Colorado, but its mine in Mountain Pass, Calif. is the only place in the United States for the mining of rare earth metals.
Rare earth metals are used in the manufacture of products ranging from hybrid cars to cruise missiles. 

Molycorp expects to place its Mountain Pass mine, the only mine for rare earth minerals in the United States and the company’s site for the mining of neodymium, back into full operation by the end of 2012, following an eight-year hiatus.

“The automotive industry worldwide is the biggest user of rare earth permanent magnets,” said Jack Lifton, a strategic metals consultant with Technology Metals Research in Carpentersville, Ill. “This is very important to that industry that the manufacturing of these magnets continue … (and) the supply of such magnets goes uninterrupted.”

The growing clamor over fuel efficient and electric cars has brought a concern that the manufacturing of the vehicles, which use rare earth metals, could bring on a global supply shortage of resources. Nearly all of the world’s rare earth metals, about 97 percent, are mined in China.