To revive rare earths industry, U.S. looks to the Mojave

To revive rare earths industry, U.S. looks to the Mojave

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times DATE: September 25, 2020 SNIP: It is five years since the giant trucks hauling ore around the Mountain Pass mine in California’s Mojave desert fell silent. Molycorp, the only major rare earths producer in the U.S., had just collapsed under the weight of a $1.7 billion debt. The bankruptcy burned investors and left the nation almost entirely reliant on China for the supply of 17 metallic elements that are embedded in most high-tech products from wind turbines to electric vehicles and F-35 fighter jets. Now, as relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorate further, the U.S. government is supporting the resurrection of Mountain Pass, which until the 1980s was the world’s biggest producer of rare earths. Disruption to supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for the U.S. and other nations to ensure they are not reliant on a single country or company for vital supplies of raw materials and goods. The Pentagon has agreed to fund MP Materials — a private equity backed company, which bought the mine for $20.5 million in 2017 and restarted excavations — to design the first heavy rare earths processing facility in the U.S. at the site. It is also backing a similar project in Texas proposed by Australian company Lynas, amid concerns that China could disrupt U.S. defense and other industries by withholding supplies of rare earths. Beijing’s threat of sanctions on Lockheed Martin in July has added urgency to efforts to break China’s stranglehold over the industry. It controls four-fifths of the global mined supply of rare earths, and an even larger share of the...
Villages die as community makes way for coal in Germany

Villages die as community makes way for coal in Germany

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: August 13, 2018 SNIP: Immerath, once a small village of 1,200 in Germany’s western frontier, host to both farms and industry, has fallen quiet. Roughly 1.3 billion tons of lignite – a soft coal – were discovered long ago under the village and its surrounding land in Germany’s North Rhine Westphalia state. Few locals took the threat seriously, so life continued until development of the mine became reality and villages were lined up for destruction. Immerath is one of the last to make way for the expansion of Garzweiler opencast mine, which is run by giant German energy provider RWE, supplying one third of Germany’s overall power. Once Garzweiler is finished, 20 villages will have gone. “Our expectation is that Garzweiler will be open until the middle of the century,” RWE press officer Guido Steffen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Germany is making radical changes, but even in the long run, in order to provide energy, we can’t forgo conventional power plants.” RWE, Europe’s top emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), admits lignite is cheap to produce, but harmful for the...