Prices are zooming and business is booming at MP Materials, the largest producer of rare earth materials in the western hemisphere. In November, it reported that revenues soared to $99 million in its most recent quarter, more than doubling from $41 million a year ago as prices for its rare earth oxides also more than doubled, supporting its plans to expand downsteam further into the magnetics business. Also, the company was recently awarded a contract from the US Department of Energy to conduct a feasibility study with the University of Kentucky on a system to recover rare earths from coal by-products.
“The MP Materials team continues to deliver, with record quarterly production and shipments driving strong growth in revenue and earnings,” said James Litinsky, chairman and CEO. “Our performance reflects continued execution and cost discipline at Mountain Pass coupled with strong global demand for rare earth materials. Also in the quarter, we continued to march toward our goal to restore the full rare earth supply chain to the United States, including progress on our Stage II optimization project and Stage III downstream expansion into magnetics.”
In the three months ending September 30, sales volume of rare earth oxides from its Mountain Pass mine near Las Vegas jumped 36% to 12,814 metric tons from 9,420 metric tons for the same period a year ago. During the same period, average prices more than doubled from $3,393 per metric ton a year ago to $7,693 this year.
The DOE project involves a $3 million award to complete a feasibility study with the University of Kentucky on a system to produce rare earth oxides, metals, and other critical materials recovered from coal by-products. The project follows up on a previous collaboration by the two entities on a conceptual study. Now, MP Materials and UK will advance their design for a modular system to concentrate coal by-product in Kentucky. The concentrate will then be delivered to Mountain Pass, where MP Materials will leverage its existing capabilities to refine and extract the individual rare earth elements from concentrate before reducing them to metal.
“We are grateful for the opportunity that this collaboration with MP Materials represents to make a strategic and environmental difference,” said Dr. Joshua Werner, assistant professor and UK principal investigator. “The significance of this work is the ability to partner with MP Materials and their deep expertise to provide a vertically-integrated, domestic rare earth supply chain to extract additional value from waste streams for the green revolution.” Earlier, a project supported by the DOE’s National Entergy Technology Laboratory conducted pilot-scale testing at UK’s facility that was designed to extract mixed rare earth elements from coal and coal by-products using advanced extraction technologies, achieving production of mixed rare earth oxide concentrates of up to 98% purity and exceeding original project goals.