TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Greenwood Village, Colorado-based Molycorp, North America’s sole rare earths elements producer, on Thursday announced that the final unit of its multi-stage cracking plant at its flagship Mountain Pass mine, had now completed commissioning and was operational.
The cracking plant was part of a multi-stage chemical process designed to increase the facility’s rare earth recovery rates, boost production throughput, and contribute to lower unit production costs.
Company officials said that the cracking plant, and other plants that comprise Molycorp’s new Mountain Pass facility, would continue to be optimised to increase operating efficiencies and to reduce costs.
Low rare earths prices had prevented the company lifting revenues and earnings in recent quarters, despite its year-ago acquisition of Neo Material Technologies, which had turned it into a fully integrated mining and production firm.
However, interim CEO Constantine Karayannopoulos told an analyst conference call early in November that global markets appeared to improve. “Global markets appear to be strengthening, albeit slowly.”
He said demand and prices for rare-earth products, which are commonly used in consumer technology such as mobile phones and computers, were recovering from the "worst quarter [second quarter] we have seen in recent memory”.
A Chinese government crackdown on illegal mining and smuggling of rare earths had also helped return “a semblance of stability” to industry demand and prices, Karayannopoulos said.