EDITOR: | July 24th, 2015 | 13 Comments

Lifton on how its officially Rare Earth Recycling Time

| July 24, 2015 | 13 Comments

July 22, 2015 – In a very thorough InvestorIntel interview, Publisher Tracy Weslosky speaks with Jack Lifton, Founding Principal of Technology Metals Research, LLC and Sr. Editor for InvestorIntel discuss a wide range of relevant technology market updates. Jack starts with Molycorp and then gets into the deepening impact of the Chinese on our overall global markets. Reminding our audience about how 60% of all metals and materials produced in the world are now going into China and how we need to pay careful attention to the Asian markets, he explains how recycling rare earths and technology metals is the real path to sustainability in North America.

Tracy Weslosky: Jack, any final words on Molycorp since you did call this?

Jack Lifton: No. Actually they, sort of, vanished — I don’t think they’re giving out public announcements right now (interview was taped on July 15th). I think the next thing is when they reappear in court next week for the next trench of debtor-in-possession financing. It’s like a soap opera. We’ll have to just tune in and see what happens next.

Tracy Weslosky: Jack you just wrote, what I thought was an outstanding piece this week talking titled, China’s Metal Markets Fear is Everybody’s Worry. I thought you had some very important messages in here including the fact that you wrote, the undeniable fact that China, the world’s most populous nation and the world’s second largest economy has become the largest end-user of technology metals and materials for the manufacturing of consumer goods in the world. I’d love for you to expand on this please.

Jack Lifton: I still don’t think that the average person in the west or maybe anywhere else is aware of the fact that China is the world technology metals and materials market at 60% of all metals and materials produced in the world are now going into China. How can we say, whatever happens in China doesn’t affect the entire market? The interesting thing to me is if the Chinese market demand increases that’s, of course, a very positive thing for non-Chinese producers. If it decreases it’s a disastrous thing. We’re all hanging onto what’s happening in China and it doesn’t matter whether the U.S. economy or European economy is up, down, sideways — these are not where the demand is for technology metals and materials. It’s primarily China, Korea, India’s coming along: the focus of demand is Asia, east Asia. Let’s start paying attention to what’s going on over there in their economies. That’s why when there’s a glitch in the economy of a country like China, when they sneeze we all have to take penicillin.

Tracy Weslosky: Alright. On that note, I think you have been an avid supporter on topics on items such as rare earth recycling for North America.

Jack Lifton: Yes.

Tracy Weslosky: Would you mind just explaining this a little bit to our audience right now? I mean, where are we with rare earth recycling? I saw one professor from Pennsylvania on TV last week, never heard of him by the way, talking about this. I’m aware of some recycling deals and some companies that claim they’re going to be doing tailing recycling. Can you tell us a little bit more about where that market is presently?

Jack Lifton: My observation on that market is that it is the next logical market for the west…to access the rest of this interview, click here


Tracy Weslosky is the founder and CEO for InvestorIntel Corp. (2001-Present), a leading online source of investor information that since 2001 has provided public market ... <Read more about Tracy Weslosky>

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  • Jeff Thompson

    If rare earth recycling were to be increased from the current rates, would one or more of the North American juniors still stand a reasonable chance of getting into production in the medium term, say 3-5 years? Ideally we would see both increased recycling and the transition to production of several heavy rare earth producing domestic companies.

    July 22, 2015 - 8:45 PM

  • Joe o

    To me this doesn’t bode well for jacks big four of tas. Ucore. Ree and Trer. Hope that super lig is legit. Or whatever Trer jv is about

    July 22, 2015 - 9:34 PM

  • Jack Lifton


    In fact a rare earth recycling based re-start of a domestic American rare earth supply chain, which is what I am advocating, would significantly enhance the value of the American junior rare earth projects that have “survived” and are also in development. There is never enough scrap anywhere to underpin a supply chain. There always has to be new material. as the basis for a reliable supply chain. But rare earth recycling in the USA can certainly arrive at a level where it is profitable and can secure the supply of material needed, for example, the US DoD’s needs, perhaps even from their own historical resource base!
    The commentator who criticized me on this post as somehow disparaging my “fab four” picks by talking about recycling does not understand the market. But he or she is not alone in that. I have been trying to get the fab four interested in this project to put them into the real business since before 2010. I can’t entirely blame them for not listening, because the non-ferrous scrap business from where one would obtain end-of-life material is very tough to deal with unless you have done it before-as I have. The rare earth scrap is there, but until the industry can make money segregating it they won’t bother. My first job as an advisor to the non-ferrous scrap industry was in 1975 on a project to evaluate the recovery of platinum from the then new catalytic converters. It was too early there was no consistent stream. That happened finally by the end of the 1980s. The rare earth permanent magnet was introduced in the US automotive industry beginning in 1982. There has been a workable stream of REE bearing scrap since the late 1990s.
    Wish me luck.


    July 23, 2015 - 11:57 AM

  • JOE O

    just to be clear I own” the Big four” I just seemed by your interview
    that u seemed a bit negative on the 4 juniors. I thought u were thinking MRT could be a game changer for more than just recycling Maybe I misconstrued your previous statements.

    July 23, 2015 - 3:04 PM


    Joe O,

    The big issue for recycling is a steady and relatively consistent feed stock stream not a separation technology. Once this hurdle has been overcome the next one is efficient extraction of the rare earth values from the scrap. Then and only then do you address separation/purification and beyond. There are profit points all through the process, but the further downstream you can go the more likely you are to maximize profit. Achieving customers’ specifications is the driver and the barrier to downstream product profit points.
    MRT and CIC and targeted solvent extraction are all in the running for use in rare earth separation here. The winner will be the lowest cost one.
    I have stopped reading press releases about table top technologies for recycling. They really aren’t needed unless they are Breakthroughs in Cost Reduction!


    July 23, 2015 - 5:15 PM

  • Jeff Thompson

    Thanks, Jack. If I follow correctly, the idea is that rare earth recycling wouldn’t be just a parallel path the juniors could follow (parallel to mine development), but should in fact be viewed as a potential initial step that could 1) help demonstrate the successful application of their chosen separation technology, and 2) generate some seed revenue that could be funneled into bringing their mine into production, essentially providing the company with two sources of raw material (scrap REE and newly-mined REE). Do I have that correct?

    Perhaps a “recycling-first” approach might also help convince those institutions considering making a capex investment in the companies larger mine-development plan of the ability of the separation technique to be applied economically.

    And yes I do wish you the best of luck, we all do!


    July 23, 2015 - 7:49 PM

  • Jack Lifton

    Yes, I think you have the essentials of what I am saying. The bottom line would be that whichever company backed my recycling venture could be producing magnet metal concentrates within a few months of now and separated magnet metals in less than a year, and after that…. Imagine that: The company would actually be in the rare earth business and well on the way to getting a vertically integrated supply chain operational so that when the mine came on stream it would be a matter of ramping up.

    July 23, 2015 - 11:17 PM

  • Investor

    Hi Jack,
    You state the following:
    “MRT and CIC and targeted solvent extraction are all in the running for use in rare earth separation here. The winner will be the lowest cost one”

    What about lowest cost one compare to the current SX technology?

    July 23, 2015 - 11:51 PM

  • Jack Lifton


    That’s EXACTLY what I mean. The new or newly applied technologies can only displace traditional processing by being lower cost per unit of production all costs having been considered.


    July 24, 2015 - 11:44 AM

  • Steve Mackowski

    I shudder wherever I think of recycling of electronic componentry elements. A few years ago, Nat Geo did a marvelous, though very concerning piece, on third world hovels bathed in toxic smoke from burning plastic, kids hand sorting remnants “after the fire”, mountains of waste polluting someone else’s environment. Just so the West could feel “clean and green” about it’s disposal of TVs etc.
    I totally support recycling of RE componentry but, and a big but, it’s a cheap world out there. And there are people not as responsible as us Jack.
    As to automotive components. Now there’s an opportunity. Providing the auto carcasses are easily salvageable.

    July 25, 2015 - 9:53 PM

  • Josh

    Mr. Lifton,

    In your interview you are referring to LCM as having high liabilities. Are you referring to the $90m. Bond debt, or the $90m. Bond minus the proceeds from the sale of SKK, or something else?
    I’m wondering how deep those pockets have to be.

    Thank you.


    August 5, 2015 - 3:53 PM

  • Terry

    From Market Wired article 31st July 2015.

    “and phosphor powder recovered from fluorescent light bulbs, helping solve a major environmental problem for landfills. ”

    Quest Rare Minerals Ltd. (TSX:QRM) (Quest) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $5 million grant from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to support Quest’s operation of a large pilot plant to produce mixed rare earth metal oxides. The objective of the pilot plant project is to establish and confirm the process parameters and in particular Quest’s Selective Thermal Sulphation (STS) process at scaled-up commercial production levels.

    Quest has developed an industrial process that efficiently and cost effectively produces high purity mixed rare earth metal oxides from both mined ore from its Strange Lake property and phosphor powder recovered from fluorescent light bulbs, helping solve a major environmental problem for landfills.

    August 6, 2015 - 7:59 AM

  • Tim Ainsworth


    Solvay have been recycling multiple RE waste streams via dedicated facilities since 2012.



    With three years experience perhaps an update on progress/economics might provide a template for your US proposition.

    August 13, 2015 - 8:03 AM

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