FASTER, PLEASE: Rare-Earth Mining Rises Again in United States.
China now controls 95 percent of total rare-earth supply. A figurative sneeze on its export policy is all that’s needed to shake global markets, and in 2010 China began restricting rare-earth exports. International prices spiked, reaching near-dizzying levels last summer before crashing in the fall. In the wake of the World Trade Organization case, they’ve perked up again. . . .
That may soon change. Encouraged by rising prices and political support, new mines are starting up around the world, most notably in Malaysia and in California, where a company called Molycorp has reopened what until the 1980s was the world’s flagship rare-earth mine.
“In five years there will be rare earths produced all over the world and China will lose its edge,” said mining analyst John Kaiser, editor of Kaiser Research Online. “Molycorp is part of that equation. They’re putting back into production what was once the largest rare-earth mine in the world. And this is a good thing because it takes away power concentrated in China.”
Located in Mountain Pass, California, about an hour west of Las Vegas, the mine sits atop mineral deposits discovered in the late 1940s by geologists looking for commercial-grade uranium. They found some of the world’s richest reserves of bastnasite, a mineral containing higher-than-usual concentrations of rare-earth elements like cerium, lanthanum and yttrium.
My advice to the Chinese: Pay off some environmental groups to shut this down.