Aug 1 (Reuters) – The United States has resumed mining rare earths after more than a decade, ending its total reliance on imports, mostly from China, for raw minerals Washington says are critical for the economy and national security.
Responding to a quadrupling of prices between 2005 and 2011 and growing anxiety about supplies from China, Molycorp’s Project Phoenix has sought to resurrect domestic production.
In 2009, the company started processing stockpiled concentrate. Last year it resumed mining at Mountain Pass in California’s Mojave Desert, which it had suspended in 2002.
Molycorp plans to raise output to 19,050 metric tonnes of rare earth oxide per year by the middle of this year, enough to satisfy more than 10 percent of worldwide demand. The resumption of domestic production comes after a period when shortages stoked tensions between the United States, the European Union and Japan and their main supplier, China.
In March 2012, the three consumers complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about China’s export restrictions on rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum, which they claimed were intended to reserve scarce elements for its manufacturers, discriminating against users in their own countries. Continue Reading →