Molycorp (MCP), the largest U.S. rare earths miner, recently announced a large-scale expansion plan to increase its global shares from the current 4 percent to more than 30 percent, according to Beijing Business Today (BBT).
Molycorp (MCP), the largest U.S. rare earths miner, recently announced a large-scale expansion plan to increase its global shares from the current 4 percent to more than 30 percent. [File Photo]
Mark A. Smith, MCP's president and CEO, said that the company is in the process of investing US$895 million to double its rare earth output from 20,000 tons to 40,000 tons. Smith even boasted that MCP will account for more than 30 percent of the global rare earths market in the future, despite the fact that the company produced less than 5,000 tons in 2011, with nearly 60 percent shipped to Japan.
MCP's announcement came shortly after the WTO, in response to the complaint from the European Union, United States and Japan in March, decided to set up an expert team on July 23 to investigate whether China is illegally choking exports of the minerals tungsten and molybdenum, as well as rare earths.
A number of Chinese experts believe that MCP will be unable to achieve its target and that its expansion plans are symbolic of both the efforts of Western countries to reduce their reliance on China and their determination to keep pressing China into giving up its stricter control on rare earths mining and exports to curtail environmental destruction and resource exhaustion.
Wang Siyu, a researcher from umetal.com, a leading metallurgical information provider in China, said that MCP's stance has been mirrored by many foreign companies which have also announced expansion plans following tighter Chinese controls on rare earths exports, yet subsequently failed to put their plans into action. "MCP's announcement, to a large extent, is aimed at putting even greater pressure on China," said Wang. "But in fact, the U.S., due to environmental concerns, won't allow the plan to see the light of day."