| Anne Stoll | 2018 Trips

Mountain Pass Mine

Mountain Pass Mine

Although this news flash from the East Mojave COULD have come from a paper like the San Francisco Call a hundred years ago, this news is hot off the presses from today’s (11/30) Wall Street Journal, page 3, front section (I’m paraphrasing their observations):

There are new developments at the former Moly Mine up in Mountain Pass – that big one we’ve all driven past a bazillion times on I-15 from Baker to Vegas. Under the headline “Tariffs Scorch ‚ÄòRare Earth’ Mine” we learned today that the Trump Administration’s trade tariffs with China have put the newly reopened Mountain Pass rare-earth mine between – wait for it – a rock and hard place. It appears 40-year-old majority owner James Litinsky of Chicago hedge-fund JHL Capital Group, which owns a 65% stake in MP Materials, is struggling to make what should have been a juicy profit from the property, the only current source of rare earths in the entire U.S. Litinsky et al pumped a pile of dough into the mine – a total of $200 million -- to buy it out of bankruptcy and get it running about a year ago. He was certain that demand for such rare ores as europium (makes your monitor see red) would be red hot and when the Administration states that “a lack of domestic rare-earth supplies undermines a competitive modern economy and strong military,” this mine had to look like a sure bet. But get this – while there is plenty of Bastnasite, there’s no way to refine it here. The ore was being shipped to – where else? – China for processing. But now with Washington’s 25% import tariff and China’s 25% retaliation tariff, the ore is getting hit going both ways, making it unprofitable. It takes Big Money, Litinsky says, to finance the expansion and upgrades required to refine the ore here. It’s clearly a tough sell. Furthermore, refining rare earths takes “massive amounts of water” which becomes contaminated in the process so we’re back to the unresolved environmental issues. Meanwhile there is a workforce of about 200 up there mining now, but for how long? Hope it’s not a black Christmas at the Mountain Pass Mine    ~ Anne Stoll  


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