U.S.-based rare earths producer Molycorp Monday announced that start-up has commenced on the only heavy rare earth concentrates producing facility in the United States.
Located about an hour's drive from Las Vegas, the Mountain Pass, California facility will produce heavy rare earth concentrate from freshly mined Mountain Pass ore that will be proceeded into high-purity, custom-engineered heavy earth products.
Molycorp's heavy rare earth concentrate contains dysprosium, terbium, europium, and other elements that will be further processed into rare earth oxides, metals, alloys, and magnetic materials used in technologies such as hybrid electric vehicles, wind turbines, high-efficiency appliances and motors, consumer electronics, and other applications.
"The heavy rare earth concentrate we will produce at Mountain Pass will support our production of a full range of high-purity, custom-engineered materials from light, medium, and heavy rare earths," said Molycorp CEO Mark A. Smith. "Such vertical integration strongly positions Molycorp to compete successfully across multiple markets."
In late 2011 Molycorp announced it had found significant ore deposits of heavy rare earth elements near Mountain Pass. China currently supplies 99% of the world's heavy rare earths.
The company also announced that its on-site combined heat and power plant will begin feeding electrical power and steam this week to its mountain Pass facilities. The plant is fueled by natural gas fed by a recently completely natural gas lateral supply line that is connected to a nearby interstate natural gas pipeline.
"We have launched operations of Project phoenix's heavy rare earth concentrate facilities on schedule, our combined heat and power plant is set to begin powering our new facilities this week, and we remain on track to achieve full Phase 1 production rates at Mountain Pass in the fourth quarter of this year," said Smith.