USMMA Sends Open Letter on Heavy Rare Earth ProductionOctober 31, 2012
On Wednesday, the USMMA sent an open letter to Molycorp, Inc. asking for clarification regarding a recent release to congressional staff and posted on their website entitled “Heavy Rare Earth Rhetoric Translated to Today’s Reality.”
Later this year, the United States is expected to have access to new supply of some rare earth minerals. This is a positive step for the commercial market. Nevertheless, the U.S. Magnetic Materials Association remains concerned about the ability of the U.S. defense industrial base to meet its needs for "strategic and critical" heavy rare earths, key elements in the production of magnetic materials.
Heavy rare earth elements are essential to the production of magnets contained in nearly every fifth-generation weapon system being deployed or developed today: the Joint Strike Fighter, the Virginia-class Attack Submarine, and stealth systems for the Blackhawk helicopter.
We look forward to Molycorp’s response so that we all might gain a better understanding about their contributions to the future of the U.S. magnetic materials supply-chain.
Update: November 1, 2012
After this letter was released, the Department of Energy (DOE) contacted the USMMA. Following the initial release of the Critical Materials Strategy, the DOE added the following note on 9 January 2012, describing the rare earth content at Mountain Pass, CA: “These estimates are derived from USGS data estimating the percentage of each element contained in the mineral bastnäsite, which is the predominant mineral in Molycorp’s primary ore body at Mountain Pass, California. Molycorp reports that its ore is comprised of both bastnäsite and other rare earth bearing minerals which contain heavy rare earth elements, including yttrium.”