The US Government Accountability Office (GAO)
has issued a report on Department of Defense's
(DoD) efforts to identify risks in its rare earths
supply chain. The report (GAO-16-161), entitled "Rare Earth
Materials: Developing a Comprehensive Approach Could Help DOD
Better Manage National Security Risks in the Supply Chain," was
sent to congressional committees last week.
The report stated that the US DoD depends on rare earths with
unique properties, such as magnetism at high temperatures, to
provide functionality in weapon system components. It pointed
out that many steps in the rare earths supply chain, including
mining, are conducted in China – a situation that "may
pose risks to the continued availability of these
The GAO study was intended to determine the extent to which
rare earths, if any, are critical to national security and to
identify and mitigate risks associated with rare earths,
including the effects of a potential supply
It found that the minerals are critical to some defence
applications, such as lasers, but said that the DoD had not
taken a comprehensive, department-wide approach to identifying
which rare earths, if any, are critical to national
Using different statutorily-based definitions, the DoD
identified 15 of the 17 rare earths as critical over the last
five years and the GAO concluded this approach was
The report added that acomprehensive approach for ensuring a
sufficient supply of rare earths for national security needs,
establishing criticality, supply risks and mitigating actions
would better position the DoD to ensure continued functionality
in weapon system components should any disruption
Creditors of US
rare earths miner Molycorp Inc. are still
nowhere near reaching a deal to reorganise the company,
according to a report by Bloomberg.
The newswire reported that Andrew Leblanc, attorney for
Oaktree Capital Management LP, Molycorp’s
principal creditor, told US bankruptcy judge Christopher
Sontchi "I might not recommend you hold your breath," during a
court session in Wilmington, Delaware, last week.
Oaktree is battling a committee of lower-ranking creditors over
the size of its loans and how best to restructure the company.
Oaktree and Molycorp agree that loans made before and after the
bankruptcy bring the amount owed to Oaktree to $514m, but other
creditors, which are collectively chasing a debt of $1.4bn,
dispute the senior lender’s figure.
Molycorp filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June last
year, as a series of operational problems, falling rare earths
prices and mounting debt made the business unprofitable. The
company is planning to either sell itself at an auction or
reorganise and reduce debt by turning itself over to
rare earths junior Mkango Resources Ltd is
aiming to dual list on the UK’s Alternative
Investment Market (AIM) next month, according to the
company’s CEO, William Dawes.
IM at the Mining Indaba Conference
in Cape Town, South Africa, last week, Dawes was upbeat about
the reception Mkango is likely to receive in London. Mkango,
which OWNS the early-stage Songwe Hill rare earths project in
Malawi, will be the only pure rare earths junior to be listed
The company plans
to use the proceeds of its initial public offering (IPO) to
fund A bankable feasibility study (BFS) at Songwe.
Dawes said that
junior miner IPOs are generally greeted with lukewarm responses
from investors in the current depressed commodities market, but
that listing remains a good source of capital for developing
Germany-based Tantalus Rare Earths AG has
withdrawn its application to open insolvency proceedings,
following the signing of a sale and purchase
agreement in December last year between Tantalus and
Singapore-based Apphia Minerals Ltd for 60% of
the shares in the German explorer’s subsidiary,
Tantalum Holding (Mauritius) Ltd.
Apphia agreed to pay €3.7m ($4.14m*) for the shares and
last week transferred the second tranche of this sum, which
amounted to €1.35m, to Tantalus. In addition, some of
Tantalus’ creditors have signed moratorium
agreements, meaning that the company is no longer illiquid
within the meaning of section 17 of the German Insolvency
Tantalus now plans to hold an extraordinary general meeting
with its shareholders to decide on the arrangements with
Apphia. The company, which owns the
TRE ionic clay project in Madagascar, filed for
insolvency in October 2015.
Resources Ltd has delivered a simplified leach
recovery flow sheet for its Ngualla rare earths project in
Tanzania, following the completion of technical development
programmes on processing bastnaesite mineral concentrates from
company said that the new flow sheet, which is a four-stage
alkali roast process, compared with the previous five-stage
double sulphate process for producing rare earths solution,
would lead to reduced plant capital cost through a smaller,
modular design of plant as well as lower operating costs due to
reduced reagent consumption.
It added that the
new flow sheet would allow Peak to focus on extracting and
recovering higher value elements, praseodymium and neodymium,
while reducing extraction of the low value rare earth,
process was developed by Peak’s metallurgical team
and optimised in Australia by Nagrom, in
Western Australia and ANSTO Minerals, in New
Commerce Resources Corp., which is developing
the Ashram rare earths project in Quebec, Canada, has also
managed to reduce the number of processing steps in its
flowsheet, following the completion of pilot-scale test
The leach stage
pilot plant work, completed last year, was based on a double
leach process that resulted in a more than 99% stage recovery,
with complete carbonate removal, Commerce said.
positive development from this piloting was obtaining bench
scale evidence that the process could be further optimised
using only a single leach. The recently completed single leach
mini-pilot plant confirmed that process efficiency can be
maintained with a reduced number of processing stages, while
operating at a larger scale, the company added.
Avalon Rare Metals Inc. has said that its
Nechalacho rare earths project in Canada’s
Northwest Territories will remain inactive in 2016, while the
company focuses on lithium and tin at its other Canadian
Avalon said that
work on the project in 2015 consisted mainly of concluding
metallurgical research, disposal of waste materials and storage
of bulk samples for future use.
blamed falling rare earths prices, which have persisted owing
partly to illegal supply from China which has caused an
imbalance in the market, bankruptcies at other rare earths
explorers and a dramatic decline in investor interest, for its
decision to mothball Nechalacho.
Avalon added that
it had agreed with Belgian chemicals producer Solvay
SA to terminate a toll processing agreement for
refining Nechalacho concentrate, which the companies signed in
March 2014 and that it was assessing the cost of continuing
with permitting applications for the property.
Avalon also owns
the Separation Rapids lithium project in Ontario and the East
Kemptville tin-indium project in Nova Scotia.
engineering group Honda has come up with a way
of reusing rare earths extracted from nickel-metal hydride
(NiMH) batteries to make new batteries for hybrid vehicles.
Honda has been
working on the process, which it claims is a world first, since
April 2012, at a plant belonging to ferroalloy manufacturer,
Japan Metals and Chemicals Co.
According to a
report by The Observer Star, the rare earth elements
are recycled by applying molten salt electrolysis to the NiMH
oxide, achieving purities of more than 99% in the recovered
made February 2016