Now not all of you know or perhaps care about neodymium (aka magnets) a rare earth metal, which stars as atomic number 60 on your handy dandy periodic table. But if you are involved in the manufacture of motors, loudspeakers, hybrid or electric vehicles, wind power and numerous other technologies, you can shout hooray for this recent announcement by Molycorp Minerals and Arnold Magnetic Technologies announcing a JV to manufacture rare earth metals in the US, according to a recent press release.
Many of these Rare Earth metals, RE’s have multi-tier supply chains, starting with the primary sources of supply (e.g. Mountain Pass), secondary sources of supply (e.g. refining the ores, recycling) and in many cases additional levels of processing. US dependence on foreign sources for rare earth metals remains a critical issue to the long-term prospects for cleantech within the United States. Neodymium, a metal mined in China, the United States, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Australia appears at first blush to be somewhat plentiful given that it is the second most common rare earth element within the earth’s crust. But China dominates the supply of the manufacture of magnets. The joint venture will allow Molycorp to convert the metal into high tech performance permanent magnets needed for so many cleantech applications. The metals will come from Molycorp’s Mountain Pass rare earth operation in California.
Let’s hope this is the first of many upcoming announcements toward the development of US based (or other) rare earth metals.