As I mentioned here recently, "[Molycorp] is now executing plans to dramatically increase output from the mine, from a current level of 3,000-5,000 metric tons per year to 20,000 metric tons per year by the end of 2012 and as much as 40,000 metric tons/year by 2013. That would be a major addition in a global market where demand for rare-earth oxides is currently 125,000 metric tons/year."
While rare-earth minerals are not critical to the manufacture of wind turbines, a number of wind turbine designs do utilize them, and as wind manufacturers strive to keep costs low, it is good for them to have as wide an array of design choices available as possible.
Rare earths, elements used to manufacture everything from cell phones, wind power, electric vehicles, lithium ion batteries, military systems and computers, were mined for years at Mountain Pass, but mining ceased in 2002 amid environmental problems and low-cost competition from China.
With worldwide demand for rare earths increasing, Molycorp broke ground late last year on a new manufacturing plant at the mine and has restarted active mining with plans to ramp up production to nearly 20,000 metric tons a year in 2012, and 40,000 by the end of 2013. The company also is partnering on a deal to use a portion of its output to manufacture magnets.
By Tom Gray, www.awea.org/blog/