Molycorp, Inc. has announced that the expanded Leach system at its Mountain Pass, California Facility has been placed into service and is expected to mitigate a major production bottleneck at the facility and facilitate greater rare earth production once it is fully operational.
Company officials said that improvements made to the Leach system include the installation of additional leach tanks, a proven technology to increase the system’s retention capacity. While operations of the new Leach system are expected to be limited in the near term due to constraints in onsite production and market availability of hydrochloric acid (HCl), Company officials said that the system expansion addresses one of the major production bottlenecks at Mountain Pass and is expected to boost rare earth production and lower operating costs once it is fully operational and sufficient supplies of HCl are available.
While onsite production and market availability of HCl are expected to improve in the fourth quarter of 2014 and beyond, Company officials said that third quarter rare earth production at Mountain Pass is not expected to exceed first quarter 2014 levels.
Company officials also announced that the onsite Chlor-Alkali facility at Mountain Pass, which uses process waste water to produce HCl and other chemical reagents used in rare earth production, is operational and that its output is expected to increase as facility engineers continue to make equipment repairs and address quality issues related to the brine feedstock that have been impacting the plant’s operations.
“Expanding our Leach system is a significant step in our efforts to increase rare earth production over the coming months at Mountain Pass and to continue to reduce our operating costs,” said Geoff Bedford, Molycorp president and CEO. “We remain committed to meeting our customers’ needs by building a global, vertically integrated company that produces rare earth materials in an environmentally superior way and at a cost that is competitive with any other producer in the world.”