Saturday, November 07, 2009

Congressional earmark would reopen Calif. rare earth mine

The new Government Affairs Report from AGI reports:
An earmark to protect rare earth element mines and bills to promote access to molybdenum-99 isotopes show a growing concern in Congress over the dearth of domestic access to mineral resources.

The shortage of rare earth minerals prompted Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA) to add an earmark to the House Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3326) for $3 million to help reopen a California rare earth mine [NB - I have to believe this is Molycorp's Mountain Pass Mine - LA]. According to Lewis the controversial funds were necessary for Molycorp Minerals, owned in part by Goldman Sachs, to quell national security concerns. This appropriations bill is still awaiting conference committee approval. [right, projected gap in RE supply and demand. Credit, Molycorp]

Rare earth minerals have seen their value balloon in recent years, thanks to their utilization in high technology military devices and renewable energy applications like hybrid batteries and wind turbines. The growing interest in supply stems from progressively tighter restrictions on export from China, the world’s single dominant producer. China controls the vast majority of supply for all 17 rare earth elements, including up to 99 percent for some elements such as Terbium. After four years of decreasing permits for export, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has reportedly submitted a recommendation to the Chinese administration to further tighten exports. Amid global concern though, MITT responded that a ban would never be enforced.

On a different, but related issue, there is growing concern in the U.S. about the supply of the isotope, molybdenum-99, which is needed for medical imaging. The U.S. stopped production of the isotope, which is a fission product of highly purified uranium-235, partly out of concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation and partly out of concerns about nuclear waste disposal. Earlier this year, a reactor in Canada used to produce the isotope broke down, nearly crippling American supplies. The American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2009 (H.R. 3276) would promote developing U.S. production of the isotope, molybdenum-99, according to its sponsor, Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), to ensure a stable and consistent supply of the isotope for cancer scans and brain imaging in American health care facilities.

The molybdenum isotope concern has also been addressed in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (H.R. 2647) which became public law this month. In addition, H.R. 2647 requires the Defense Science Board to study and report on the extent to which military capabilities are impacted by supplies and the potential shortage of rare earth minerals.

The full text of H.R. 3326 is available from Thomas:
The full text of H.R. 3276 is available from Thomas:
The full text of H.R. 2647 is available from Thomas:

1 comment:

  1. Having read Senator Lisa Murkowski's article in the Capital Hill Newspaper "Roll Call".....Murkowski: Increase Domestic Production of Rare Earth MineralsBy Sen. Lisa Murkowski Special to Roll Call
    Oct. 19, 2009, 12 a.m
    I would like to bring to the committee's attention a much more pressing issue with regard to "Streategic & Critical Metals" category for the the United States industrial base as well as the Military Defense Industry.
    *The US ``National Research Council of The Acadamies`` lists these
    Minerals as Strategic Metals. Gallium, Indium, Lithium, Manganese,
    Niobium, Tantalum, Titanium, & Vanadium.
    ``Quote``- from words of Brian Gilbertson who is the CEO of
    Manganese miner Pallinghurst and former CEO of BHP Billiton.
    Points to consider with regards to Manganese use and production
    in N America`s Steel Industry.
    -Manganese has NO substitutions in all Steel production and besides
    being imperative to all Steel production it is highly strategic to the
    Military Defense Industry.
    -The US Government has sold off almost all of it`s strategic stockpiles of
    Manganese over the last few years.
    -China supplies just over 97% of World`s Electrolytic Manganese
    Metal. (EMM)
    -China`s taxes it`s exports of Manganese by 20%.
    -US adds another 14% Import Tax.
    -S Africa, the only free world suppier of Manganese is facing production
    cuts due to high electrical costs, power shortages, high transport costs
    and lack of infrastructure.
    -Iron & Steel production uses 10 to 20 lbs of Managanese per Tonne
    of Steel.
    -Manganese is the 4th largest traded metal commodity worldwide.
    Approximately 30 B lbs per year.
    -Mn demand growing by 8% per year, Electrolytic Manganese by 26%
    per year for last 5 years. (EMM demand currently at 2.6 B lbs per year,
    up from 660 M lbs in 2002)
    -Most important is the fact that -There is virtually No ``Domestic`` N.
    American Manganese production currently and thus the US and
    Canada are at the mercy of out of country supplies of the most critical
    of metals to our infrastructure and industrial base.
    -Chinese and S African Manganese shipments also subject to Trans
    Oceanic shipping costs for N American Steel Co`s.
    -There is a Jr Miner active with an advanced Manganese project at
    Artillery Peak Arizona with over 10 B lbs of Manganese, Indicated &
    Inferred (NI-43-101) getting little to no recognition and it appears
    they can produce Manganese at about one half the cost of China`s
    production. (Rocher Deboule Minerals Corp.)
    In closing, having done much personal research, and having read
    numerous editorials on Manganese over the last two years, most
    recently in March 2009 posted on Kitco`s Base Metals, titled
    USA`s Number One Strategic Metal-Manganese, I do feel qualified to speak
    to this topic, and to myself it appears N America and in particular the FACT
    that the USA`s Steel Industry is or could at any given time, be at the total mercy
    of out of country supplies of the most critical of metals, Manganese.