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Jack Lifton  

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  • What Now For Molycorp? [View article]
    Bad news guys:


    Mar 5, 2014. 08:11 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • What Now For Molycorp? [View article]
    I have just attended a successful (as many as 400 attendees!!) rare earth permanent magnet (REPM) conference in Ningbo, China, in which city in China, alone, tens of thousands of tons of REPMs are produced each year. For comparison note that the non-Chinese-Japanese production of REPMs in the world is IN TOTAL a very few thousand tons at best, and, at that, almost ZERO REPM alloy is produced outside of China (80%) and Japan (20%).

    REE Capacity and price were a big topic at the conference.

    Repeated at the conference was the theme I heard last summer in Ganzhou, China, a fiercely competitive city of Ningbo for REPM production, China has huge overcapacity for SEPARATION/REFINING of the REEs, all of them.

    Yes, the Chinese REE MINING and PROCESSING INDUSTRIES (NOTE THE PLURAL) are being consolidated under national government fiat to streamline and become profitable and control costs and speculation and address environmental issues in mining.

    Thirty-Eight SX separation plants for REEs are in the Ganzhou region with a total refining capcity of 60,000 tons per year. Ganzhou is the center of heavy rare earth mining/refining. The GLOBAL market for HREEs is 15,000 tons per year.

    Inner Mongolia is the global center of LIGHT RARE EARTH mining AND refining, NOT MOUNTAIN PASS and NOT Mt. WELD AND KUANTAN, Malaysia! The manager of the LARGEST LREE miner/refiner IN THE WORLD in Inner Mongolia spoke in Ganzhou when I was there. He said TO HIS CHINESE COLLEAGUES (200 of them) that his company was totally integrated and had the lowest production costs in the world for REE production, so that if any of the EXCESS CAPACITY of Ganzhou were to be set to compete with Baotou then it would be come bankrupt.

    BUT, most of Ganzhou's 38 SX separation plants are facing imminent bankruptcy anyway, so they are offering "deals" to refine at any price.

    By the way the manging director from Baotou told us that he expects there to be 30,000 tons of "surplus" cerium produced IN CHINA in 2014!

    I note that the former NEO Materials is a minor player in all of this in China.

    When you sit in your leather chairs contemplating Molycorp's stock price and future rest assured that NO ONE in China is thinking about MCP as a competitor.


    Please widen yours.

    There is no rare earth market; there is a rare earthS' market. Rare earths are not sold nor can they be in "lockstep." Cerium is selling today in China for $4/kg. For a company such as Molycorp to compete in the world's largest REEs markets it will have to be able even to market its cerium output at a profit at a selling price of $4/kg for the foreseeable future.

    I am writing today on Investor Intel Report on "The Hitachi Charade in North Carolina." This will introduce you to the real world of REPM manufacturing and marketing.
    Mar 5, 2014. 08:08 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Fuel Cell Vehicles And Critical Metals: Supply And Demand [View article]
    Thank you for giving me an insight.
    Hydrogen, THE most abundant of the chemical elements in the universe is actually rather scarce in the global human technology economy, because it is pointless to produce it for mass consumption due to the energy costs of obtaining it from the decomposition of hydrocarbons, ammonia, or water, and due to the cost of erecting a distribution system. We don't need fuel cells to burn hydrogen to release electricity to power electric motor driven vehicles we could just use hydrogen directly in internal combustion engines that would also have only water as an exhaust. I recall that fairly recently BMW reconfigured a V10 engine to burn hydrogen and put a few of them on the road in New York State centered geographically on a company owned hydrogen fueling station.
    Mar 5, 2014. 04:09 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Fuel Cell Vehicles And Critical Metals: Supply And Demand [View article]
    Lets just concentrate on the platinum group metals scarcity issue. Global platinum production is almost the same as global palladium production. Both are in the 200-300 metric tons per year range. Both metals are produced overwhelmingly in politically unreliable countries and, in any case, are becoming more expensive to mine and refine daily.

    Palladium can be used and has been used in fuel cells, and it is currently 1/2 the price of platinum.

    Mar 5, 2014. 12:12 PM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is The Pentagon Handing China The Keys To U.S. Defense? [View article]
    Dr Leeb,

    Your conclusions are correct, but many of your facts are not. This really doesn't matter except where you say that China has the most accessible and abundant deposits of the "heavy rare earths." Note well that China has no hard rock deposits with recoverable heavy rare earths. It's advantage in this sector of the rare earths' markets is that its "deposits" are easily recovered by heap leaching with simple chemicals such as soluble ammonium salts. Its "deposits' however are in the 500 parts per million range, at best, so that the sheer volume of surface material that must be treated is enormous. This leads to wasteful practices best described as laying waste the land with little regard for health or the environment.
    The USA, in fact, has 3 significant hard-rock deposits of heavy rare earths:
    1. The Bear Lodge, Wyoming, centered and huge rare earth district in Wyoming being developed by Rare Element Resources, REE,
    2. The Bokan Mountain Complex in Alaska being developed by Ucore Rare Metals, UURAF, and
    3. A unique and huge net deposit of the unique mineral, yttrofluorite, near El Paso, Texas, being developed by Texas Rare Earth Resources, TRER.

    I am writing this comment at the Shanghai airport from which I am departing today for Malaysia. I just attended the first International Rare Earth Permanent Magnet Conference to be held in Ningbo, and I spoke about rare earth recycling in the USA compared with China.

    Your comment has led me to reflect and come to the conclusion that in fact it is the USA that has the largest volume of hard rock deposits of economically recoverable heavy rare earths in the world at the present time. I suspect also that the excellent hard rock deposits of Tasman Metals at Nora Kaar in Sweden are a larger resource than the Chinese adsorption clays.

    Hastings Rare Earths and Northern Minerals both in Australia are hard rock deposits of perhaps the most desirable heavy rare earth themed mineral, xenotime.

    last but not least I predict that Brazil will be producing xenotime in this decade from the cassiterite residues of tin mining.

    Canada also has some very large hard rock deposits of heavy rare earths, but for the time being their development is held up by the sheer costs of infrastructure in the case of the Quebec deposits and by that problem and the issue of radioactive content in the Canadian Northwest Territories.

    Did I mention the ionic adsorption clays in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which could be processed just as the Chinese adsorption clays are?

    The USA does not have the will to create a total rare earth supply chain; it has the resources to do so. Logic tells me that Rare Element Resources, Texas Rare Earths, and Ucore will be North America's source of a secure supply of ALL of the critical rare earths by the end of this decade.

    I now think that the USA and Europe will both recreate their prior total rare earth supply chains by the end of this decade and that by 2025 the USA and Europe will be self sufficient in rare earth elements.

    Jack Lifton
    Mar 5, 2014. 02:14 AM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • 3 Billion Reasons Why Tesla's Gigafactory Will Be A Bloodbath [View article]

    I'm in Ningbo, China, right now at the International Rare Earth Permanent Magnet Conference. Yesterday in the China Daily, the English language version of the semi-official Peking People's Daily, a statistic was published that last year 9,000 EVs and 13,000 PHEVs were sold in China. At the same time an American was telling the conference that there were already 2,000,000 EV and HEVs in China and that there would be 20,000,000 by 2020.

    The EV and HEV stock promoters are once again out of the asylum. Cheap fuel cells built from scarce and expensive raw materials drawing hydrogen fuel from non-existent distribution points will soon join endless numbers of obsolescent
    lithium batteries built from fantasy mountains of lithium and fueled from non-existent charging stations powered by bankrupt coal-fired or frackless natural gas fired generating stations.

    That whistling sound you hear is the money being separated from the fools.

    April 1 is literally just around the corner. It must be Elon Musk's favorite day for raising money.

    Next time you see him ask him why not a TESLA FCV?
    Mar 3, 2014. 09:14 AM | 12 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Stationary Energy Storage: Pipe Dream Or Lead-Pipe Cinch? [View article]

    The sad reality that all of your articles emphasizes is the ill-preparation, educationally and experientially, of many of your detractors. I note that today "graph reading" is actually a full course or a significant course segment in many engineering schools. I well recall that when science and engineering were noble and mostly selfless professions not at all entertained by those who just wanted to get rich there was no hope of a career for those who couldn't create and illustrate data with graphs much less for those who didn't understand statistics thoroughly.
    Your deductions are incontestable, and I find no flaws in your data or assumptions.
    As an aside I couldn't agree with you more that the application of Moore's law, which was specifically drawn to illustrate the growth of computational "power," has been misapplied to a multitude of areas such as battery energy density growth to which I doubt that Dr Moore, who I met in the late 1960s when he was in Detroit, selling (successfully as I recall) Stan Ovshinsky on the idea of letting Intel design and make the chips for the amorphous semiconductor memory, gave any conscious thought. It was just some 40 years later, by the way, that these "memory chips" became the basis of the SSD memories. I phoned Stan Ovshinsky to tell him that on the day I read the news in the journal of the IEEE, and he said "It took a while for the manufacturers to catch up to the dreamers." I wonder what Moore would have thought of that?
    Jan 9, 2014. 01:28 PM | 6 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • 1883 Interview With Thomas Edison On Energy Storage [View instapost]
    The battery and electric motor were strong contenders for passenger and freight vehicle power trains until the internal combustion engine became more practical in around 1912. It wasn't until after World War 2 that the American electric power "grid" was extensive enough to consider EVs again. However except in the cases where you needed enormous and instantaneous torque, such as in aircraft docking tow motors economics has defeated battery power. The automotive companies spent millions studying EV engineering between 1960 and 1990. The conclusion was that the limitations of EVs defeated their acceptance against internal combustion powered vehicles.
    The ONLY thing that has kept alive the EV idea is that IF there is "harmful" global warming caused by man made emissions of carbon dioxide then there is an urgent need to eliminate wherever possible the sources of carbon dioxide. Now that the global warming issue is fading and coming into ill repute as junk science the biggest driver (excuse the pun) for EVs is fading rapidly. If you cannot capitalize the environmental aspect the enterprise is still, today, an economic failure. The outcome of unprofitable schemes today, just as in Edison's day, and in Leonardo's day, and in Archimedes' day, is failure.
    Jan 1, 2014. 09:34 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Rare Earth Prices Are Poised To Rebound And Who Stands To Benefit [View article]

    I think you are correct in identifying the key issues.

    Essentially all of the world's rare earth permanent magnets are made in China and Japan. The Chinese rare earth industry believes it will NEVER have to import neodymium, praseodymium, or samarium. The Japanese, on the other hand, know they will ALWAYS have to import all of the rare earth elements they use. Lynas' ore is much richer in neodymium/praseodymium than Molycorp ore. This means that Lynas can produce LESS TREEs and get MORE Nd and Pr per unit of finished material. Lynas' production target could meet more than 50% of Japan's domestic demand for Nd and Pr. Molycorp could provide the rest, but there are two problems facing both Molycorp and Lynas.
    1. Molycorp has significant refining and manufacturing operations in the PRC. These operations are constrained to operate under Chinese environmental, legal, and import/export rules, and
    2. Japan is well advanced in developing its own rare earth supply chains in Southeast Asia, India, Africa, and Canada. Any Japanese successes will have a negative impact on both Molycorp and Lynas.
    Articles about the REEs markets that ignore the global picture, as almost all SA articles do should not be anyone's sole reason for investing in the REE space.

    Dec 9, 2013. 09:47 AM | 9 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Molycorp: Misconceptions And Reflexivity Present Opportunity [View article]
    My impression was based on 50 years experience with the chemistry of the rare earths, and the kerosene puddle(s!) at Mountain Pass didn't bother me at all. I have been in many chemical engineering operations.

    As my German colleague pointed out there was less background radiation in Kuantan than in his hometown of Karlsruhe.

    The issue for Molycorp is that they have spent too much money, as perhaps has Lynas, to "enter" a market too small overall to justify such expense.
    Dec 1, 2013. 10:51 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Molycorp: Misconceptions And Reflexivity Present Opportunity [View article]

    I was one of a committee appointed by the Malaysian Academy of Science to survey the LAMP last year, before it went into operation. Our group included the German scientist in charge of decommissioning Germany's civilian nuclear power system.

    I note that an urban legend is being repeated here. It is being said that at full capacity, 22,000 metric tons per year of rare earths, the LAMP will produce 51 tons of thorium in its residue. That is true, but the nonsensical claim that this will be a single 51 ton mass of thorium is ridiculous in the extreme.

    Due to the high grade of the Lynas feed stock-it is more than 12% in the ground (the highest grade rare earth ore in quantity in the world in fact)-the plant would process just 122,000 tons of mechanically beneficiated ore concentrates per year. The 51 tons of thorium will be dispersed in, at least, 100,000 metric tons of residue at a concentration of 500 parts per million or less.

    Although the Molycorp data are not as transparent as those of Lynas it is clear that since the ore at Mountain Pass is about half the grade of Mt Weld (and it is a totally different mineral) Molycorp will need to process at least twice as much ore as Lynas. I understand that the thorium containing residues will be "stored" at the minesite or "otherwise" disposed of.

    The ignorance of the SeekingAlpha readership about radioactive material management is not surprising to me; such management is a highly specialized field requiring many many years of study and experience. What does surprise me, quite frankly, is that "The Friends of the Mojave," the group that shut down (and killed) Molycorp in 1998 because of a small thorium leak(!) has not risen up this time to complain about Molycorp's resurgence.

    I think that SLSM and The Friends of the Mojave should call a joint meeting at Whiskey Pete's Casino in Henderson, NV, which is 9 miles from Mountain Pass and have a night of gambling, drinking, and ignorant fear-mongering. They won't need girls (or boys) because their antics allow them to screw themselves.
    Dec 1, 2013. 09:43 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Understanding Tesla's Giga-Scale Battery Challenges [View article]

    You couldn't be more right. I well remember when the OEM automotive industry "Giant," General Motors, told Formosa Plastics that it demanded steep volume discounts on its PVC purchases for adhesives and sealants based on its large use. The Formosa Plastics purchasing agent told the GM person that the volume use of PVC was for home decorating and that Formosa didn't care about the "few million" pounds that GM or its suppliers bought.

    It's really the same thing here, isn't it?.
    Nov 30, 2013. 06:00 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Understanding Tesla's Giga-Scale Battery Challenges [View article]
    That's certainly accurate
    Nov 30, 2013. 10:55 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Molycorp: Misconceptions And Reflexivity Present Opportunity [View article]

    Your analysis is very interesting, and I think mostly correct. Neo was and is, as Molycorp China, just one of many players in the separation and purification of the rare earths for making magnet alloys. It specializes in the neodymium (not praseodymium-neodymium = didymium) iron boron alloy used to make bonded magnets, which constitute just 10% of the overall rare earth permanent magnet market globally. Neo is not the smallest nor the largest player in rare earth refining in China.
    in 2009 I asked Constantine Karryanoupoulos why Neo didn't buy one of the even then numerous rare earth deposits under "development." He said that Neo was the only rare earth based business in North America making profits and that it was doing so without the anvil of a money-draining mining project hanging around its neck, he said, why should Neo go into mining?
    It seems to me that Neo was sold to Molycorp at the top of the market, so that Neo shareholders were rewarded as they could not have been before and never again could be.
    It also seems to me that Neo will ultimately become a freestanding company again perhaps getting some light rare earths from Molycorp, if that entity still then exists, and buying heavy rare earths in China as always.
    The great unknown now is whether anyone outside of China will develop a heavy rare earth production industry, and, if so, whether China will allow such raw materials to be imported so as to disrupt and negate its internal allocations. This has got to be the hope and the fear of Constantine Karryanoupoulos.
    Nov 30, 2013. 09:56 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Understanding Tesla's Life Threatening Battery Decisions [View article]
    In the late 1990s Energy Conversion Devices equipped an EV1 with NiMH batteries in place of the original Pb-acid types. As I recall the car's range went from 90 to 160 miles, but the cost was prohibitive.

    Note that the NiMH batteries used today in HEVs do not have the storage capacity or the need to power the car by themselves except in emergencies and even then just for a few miles. The NiMH batteries are there to hybridize the power train in the most efficient way.

    You are absolutely right that there just could not be enough lanthanum ever produced for even a conversion of the world's motor fleet to HEV powertrains. There might be if the habit of a multi-passenger vehicle carrying one passenger weren't so ingrained in our wasteful western culture. I well remember watching Romanian Dacia pickup trucks leaving the factory in Pitesti for export to China in the 1980s. A Romanian auto engineer said to me that these were Chinese "estate" wagons (in American English this is a "station wagon"). The pickup carried four Chinese in the cab and six more in the box, he said. Alas, my recent trips to China show me that the Chinese, at least in the cities, no longer do this. I see many large sedans moving in a river of cars along the Beijing streets around the clock with one person in them.

    Throughout history only the wealthy could afford to be fat. Now that everyone in the developed world can be fat, even on a budget wasting resources is the new insignia of wealth.
    Nov 22, 2013. 09:53 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment