Molycorp announced that the final major elements of the $1.5 billion expansion and modernization of its rare earth mining and processing facility in Mountain Pass, CA are complete.
Specifically, the mine’s chloralkali plant is now “mechanically complete” and work to start up the plant has begun.
Also, the last unit of the mine’s “multi-stage cracking plant” is now mechanically complete and startup procedures have begun, Molycorp said in a statement.
The chloralkali plant will recycle waste water and produce hydrochloric acid and caustic soda used as part of the rare earth separations process. Molycorp officials said that once fully operational and optimized, the chloralkali plant is expected to help the facility achieve its cash production cost targets, which Molycorp believes will make it competitive with the lowest cost producers globally.
Molycorp also confirmed that the final unit of its multi-stage cracking plant at Mountain Pass is now mechanically complete and is being commissioned. The unit is part of a multi-stage chemical process designed to increase the facility’s current rare earth recovery rates, increase production throughput, and contribute to lower unit production costs.
“These are the last major construction activities of Project Phoenix, the rebuild of Mountain Pass, and we expect these units to be commissioned and enter into production in the fourth quarter of 2013,” said Constantine Karayannopoulos, then president and chief executive officer of Molycorp. “Bringing these units online will help us focus on increasing production while continuing to reduce our production costs.”
Molycorp also announced a leadership change. The company has promoted Geoff Bedford, its executive vice president, to be its president and chief executive officer. He replaces Karayannopoulos who was appointed interim president and CEO in Dec. 2012. Karayannopoulos will stay with Molycorp as the board’s vice chairman.
Molycorp mines rare-earth elements, which are processed into compounds vital for a number of industrial and military applications, including electronics, oil refining, bombs and special magnets used in wind turbines and electric cars. At Mountain Pass, Molycorp owns the biggest U.S. deposits of rare earths.
“It (The chloralkali plant ) greatly reduces the environmental footprint at Mountain Pass, and it also drives down our production costs,” Molycorp spokesman Jim Sims told the Denver Business Journal.
The mine’s multi-stage cracking plant is part of a chemical process that raises the amount of rare earth elements the facility can get from the ore, speed up the production process, and also lower costs, the company said.
“About 8 percent of the ore you pull out of the ground is rare earths,” Sims said. “We’re getting increasingly better rates of recovery, and this last unit of the multi-stage cracking unit will help us increase that even more. It’s all about efficiency,” he said.
“These are the last major construction activities of Project Phoenix, the re-build of Mountain Pass, and we expect these units to be commissioned and enter into production in the fourth quarter of 2013,” said Karayannopoulos. “Bringing these units online will help us focus on increasing production while continuing to reduce our production costs.”