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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: North America: November 4th 2011


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:: Molycorp to Accelerate Startup of US Rare Earth Processing Unit

Molycorp plans to accelerate by around three months the initial startup of its rare earth processing facility, currently under construction at Mountain Pass, California, the US company said Thursday.

Molycorp is the western hemisphere's only producer of rare earth oxides and the largest REO producer outside of China. Accelerating the facility's initial startup will increase the company's estimated 2012 production by around 3,500 mt, to 8,000-10,000 mt, and will enable Molycorp to achieve its full Phase 1 production rate of 19,050 mt/year of rare earth oxide equivalent three months earlier than previously planned, the company said.

In anticipation of the facility's accelerated start-up, Molycorp plans to begin mining and stockpiling of fresh rare earth ore next week. "We are accelerating our startup because of robust rare earth oxide markets and very favorable project economics," said Mark A. Smith, Molycorp's president and CEO, in a statement. "Every month that we accelerate our start-up provides that much more product to customers who need it now," he added. "This acceleration also expands the diversity of global supply, which is an increasingly urgent matter for rare earth consumers." Molycorp produces rare earth metals, rare earth alloys (such as neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt alloys) and rare metals such as niobium and tantalum.

End-users include clean energy technologies, such as hybrid and electric vehicles and wind power turbines; high-tech applications, including fiber optics, lasers and hard disk drives; and defense applications.

The company produced 1,249 mt of rare earth oxides in the second quarter of 2011, up from 796 mt in Q1.




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