Rare earth element miner seeks to expand in U.S.

Molycorp Minerals seeks to reopen a California mine to extract rare earth elements, a group of metals used for magnets and batteries in hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, and other green technologies.

Many green technologies associated with energy production rely on an often overlooked resource: minerals.

Molycorp Minerals, a company with rights to mine the rare earth elements that are vital to many green technologies, said on Friday that it hopes to raise $350 million by going public on the stock market. In its S-1 document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said its operation in Mountain Pass, Calif., in the Mojave Desert is the most fully developed rare earth project outside of China.

There has been growing attention being paid to rare earth elements because most of these materials are sourced in China and they are vital to the advancement of clean-energy technologies. In March, for example, scientists warned a Congressional committee that China's domestic demand for rare earth elements will create a supply crunch that could cripple U.S. high-tech development.

Some of the prized metals are dysprosium, neodymium, and lanthanum, which are used in the production of hybrid cars. Neodymium, for example, is used to make permanent magnets for wind turbines and batteries for hybrid and electric cars. Materials from this group, which total 17 elements in all, are also used for battery electrodes or low-energy light bulbs.

Molycorp Minerals said that it has successfully extracted rare earth elements from its operation and is hoping to reopen mining operations again in late 2010 and ramp up its processing facilities to operate by late 2012.

 

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