Research Project Looks at Economical Extraction of REEs From Coal

Prospects for increased production of metals from conventional rare-earth element (RRE) deposits in the United States suffered a setback last year when Colorado-based Molycorp filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after changes in China’s RRE trade policies pulled the rug out from under the company’s optimistic effort to elevate its Mountain Pass, California, rare-earth mine to world-class producer status. After racking up more than $1.7 billion in debt, Molycorp shuttered the money-losing mine and processing operation, and although the company won court approval to exit bankruptcy earlier this year, the future of Mountain Pass is unclear—particularly after Molycorp recently referred to the high “scrap value” of the mine in response to public concern that the terms of the court’s bankruptcy release might free the company from responsibility for certain site-remediation costs and liabilities.

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