The Trump administration favors the idea of converting the processing plant at Mountain Pass rare earth mine to a national lab for research into rare earth elements (REEs) mining and processing, according to Michael Silver, CEO, American Elements Corp. Silver met with the president in July after a consortium spearheaded by a company allegedly linked to the Chinese government acquired the mine, formerly owned by Molycorp, at a bankruptcy auction. Rival bidder, Tom Clarke, owner of ERP Strategic Minerals, said he would contest the result in court.
Silver said the president is considering nationalizing Mountain Pass. “They are favorable to the idea of establishing a rare earth source for high technology manufacturing in the United States,” he said.
The administration is also considering other related proposals. “There is an effort at the White House to look at all the other deposits around the world and see where we can be helpful,” he said. “That would include the very valuable deposit in Afghanistan, ones in Greenland, as well as putting together a national lab to provide a centralized location for separating rare earths that could be utilized by non-American-based mines as well as the many American-based deposits that are looking for a place to process REEs.”
Silver said China effectively owns the REEs value chain, and that the U.S., to include the military, is dependent on that value chain for componentry for high technology. Initiating establishing a source within the U.S. for REEs is a crucial step toward countering Chinese hegemony in the sector and regaining national sovereignty in manufacturing and defense, he said. “If you don’t have materials to produce products, you can forget about competing on a global level,” he said. “The country that has the raw materials at the right price will beat you every time.”
Mountain Pass, originally owned by Chevron, was purchased in 2008 by a conglomerate known as Molycorp. Molycorp filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015.