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Molycorp to expand rare earth operation to Estonia

Rare

Molycorp Inc., which owns the only rare earth mine in the U.S., plans to double its processing capacity by buying a European plant.

The Colorado-based company said Monday that it was buying 90% of Estonia-based AS Silmet for $89 million –- 80% from AS Silmet Grupp and another 10% from Austrian chemistry and metallurgy company Treibacher Industrie.

The facility in Sillamae, Estonia, will immediately begin processing 3,000 metric tons of rare earths –- a group of 17 metal elements used in clean technologies such as wind turbines and electric vehicles. Molycorp’s mine in Mountain Pass, Calif., which will provide the raw materials, can also process about 3,000 metric tons.

The move will help Molycorp grab a larger chunk of the rare earths supply chain. China produces more than 95% of the world’s supply at the moment and has indicated that not much of it will cross its borders.

RELATED:

Rare earths: Time for the U.S. to boost production?

As China slashes exports of rare earth elements, U.S. mine digs for more

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Hidden in a rock blasted from the Molycorp Minerals are rare earth metals found in only a few mines on Earth. Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times

 
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