Molycorp Inc. (NYSE: MCP), the Western hemisphere’s only producer of rare-earth oxides, today announced that it has entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with the Ames Laboratory. The Molycorp-Ames Laboratory effort will focus on developing new methods to create commercial-grade rare-earth permanent magnets.
The collaboration combines Ames Laboratory’s more than 60 years of experience in the critical materials science field with Molycorp’s more than 58 years of experience in developing and commercializing innovative rare earth processing technologies.
"We are looking forward to a highly successful partnership between Molycorp and the Ames Laboratory that will incorporate new techniques, processes, and materials into U.S. supply chains," said Debra Covey, Ames Laboratory associate laboratory director for Sponsored Research Administration.
“This is a significant first step toward a long and mutually beneficial relationship between these two committed entities,” said Karl Gschneidner Jr., who will lead the research efforts at the Ames Laboratory. "The Ames Laboratory-Molycorp partnership will serve to re-energize applied rare earth research in the U.S., and will begin to ameliorate the current void in intellectual infrastructure in rare earths by training undergraduates, graduate, and post-doctoral students and providing them with research opportunities.”
Ames Laboratory scientists will investigate several compositions of rare earth materials and processing techniques with the goal of making permanent rare earth magnets with properties comparable to currently available neodymium-iron-boron magnets. The material combinations studied will correspond with the relative concentrations of rare earth elements in Molycorp’s Mountain Pass mine, using techniques that are more cost effective and leave a smaller environmental footprint than current methods.
“For more than 60 years, the Ames Laboratory has sought out solutions to energy-related questions through groundbreaking research and development,” said Dr. John Burba, Molycorp’s executive vice president and chief technology officer. “It is my hope that this cooperative agreement will lead to breakthroughs in rare-earth material manufacturing that can advance the state of the art in rare-earth magnet design and manufacture as well as strengthen our nation’s productive capacity of these and other critical rare-earth materials.”
Gschneidner, Burba, and Vitalij Pecharsky, an Ames Laboratory senior scientist, will serve as principle investigators on the project.
Colorado-based Molycorp, Inc. is the only REO producer in the Western Hemisphere and currently produces approximately 3,000 metric tons of commercial rare earth materials per year. Following the execution of Molycorp's "mine-to-magnets" strategy and the expected 2012 completion of Phase 1 of its modernization and expansion efforts at its Mountain Pass, California processing facility, Molycorp expects to produce at a rate of approximately 19,050 metric tons of REO equivalent per year. The Company expects to achieve an annual production capacity by the end of 2013 of approximately 40,000 metric tons of REO equivalent per year after the completion of Phase 2. Molycorp intends to provide to the market a range of rare earth products, including high-purity oxides, metals, alloys, and permanent magnets.