EDITOR: | August 12th, 2014 | 117 Comments

Thorium lobby thunder intent on hijacking rare earths’ coattails

| August 12, 2014 | 117 Comments
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grinning-monkeyAnyone in the Rare Earths space knows that Thorium frequently appears as an unwanted guest at the party. Explorers have worked on various ways to get around the issue. However there is a small group out there who we would call the “deniers”. They absolutely love Thorium. They are like Swedes liberated from the sauna in the dead of winter and would roll around in the stuff naked, if they could, to prove their commitment. While greater love hath no man to a chemical element than the Thorium crowd to their object of desire, the more measured amongst us realize that the mineral has been stuck for decades like a racehorse suffering a starting-gate malfunction.

What are we talking of here..

Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It was discovered in 1828 by the Norwegian mineralogist Morten Thrane Esmark and identified by the Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

Thorium is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust, and is chiefly refined from monazite sands as a by-product of extracting rare earth metals.

Thorium was once commonly used as the light source in gas mantles and as an alloying material, but these applications have declined due to concerns about its radioactivity. In the early days of the REE boom we stumbled upon the past REE (mainly Cerium) production in North Carolina (a world leader pre-1914) and further research showed that the buyers of most of the product was the German Thorium Consortium (a form of proto-cartel) who lost interest in NC and headed off to develop the Brazilian Monazite sands, which dominated REE production until the Mountain Pass era.

Thorium is also used as an alloying element in non-consumable TIG welding electrodes. It remains popular as a material in high-end optics and scientific instrumentation. Thorium and uranium are the only radioactive elements with major commercial applications that do not rely on their radioactivity.

The application that gets Thorium’s boosters most hot and bothered is its use in alternative nuclear reactors. Canada, China, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have experimented with using thorium as a substitute nuclear fuel in nuclear reactors. When compared to uranium, there is a growing interest in thorium-based nuclear power due to its greater safety benefits, absence of non-fertile isotopes and its higher occurrence and availability. India’s three stage nuclear power program is possibly the best-known and best-funded of such efforts. Once again we see the sideline for REEs as the beach sands exploited for Thorium in India are also the source of its REE production. We might also mention in passing that Great Western’s Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa was really a Thorium mine in its prime, with the end-use being in X-Rays.

Having said that though, the reality has not measured up to the expectations with much talk of pebble-bed reactors and micro-reactors etc. not having led to any significant adoption besides India’s efforts with a home-grown resource.

A boondoggle by any other name…

Never let it be said that the US Congress is lacking in those suffering the legislative equivalent of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). The problem with this is that matters of great import (the US vulnerability on the strategic metals front) is oft confused by lesser worthy issues that have more strident (or generous) advocates. Thorium has gained quite a bit of traction and in the process has left prospective REE lobbyists having to try and differentiate themselves from a welter of (mis)information from Thorium’s advocates who have appropriated some of rare earths’ attractions for their own purposes by claiming that REEs and Thorium appear together, thus assistance to the Thorium industry must by implication help the REE crowd. This is bogus to say the least.

The main putsch of the Thorium clique is in the form of a piece of legislation under the moniker HR 4883. This bill advocates the promotion of heavy rare earth extraction and the storage of thorium.

The money phrase though is: “(5) Direct links exist between heavy rare-earth mineralogy and thorium”. Never let it be said that legislative agendas are subtle but this one is blatant piggy-backing. Then even more specifically it claims as its statement of policy: “It is the policy of the United States to advance domestic refining of heavy rare-earth materials and the safe storage of thorium in anticipation of the potential future industrial uses of thorium, including energy, as —

  1. thorium has a mineralogical association with valuable heavy rare-earth elements;
  2. there is a great need to develop domestic refining capacity to process domestic heavy rare-earth deposits; and
  3. the economy of the United States would benefit from the rapid development and control of intellectual property relating to the commercial development of thorium-utilizing technology”.

Reading between the legalese we see an attempt to stockpile Thorium, combined with an outreach to receive some sort of research funds to generate thorium applications. Pork-barrel is the word that comes most to mind. Indeed its groupies have even produced a video, but to say it’s gone viral with 1,400 hits would be over-exaggeration!

One of our deep throats in the REE space commented, “We are in an interesting position. Unlike others, we have a private-industry developed solution for our thorium that we have spent a good deal of time and money developing. We believe that HR 4883 attempts to have the Government develop a solution to a problem that does not exist while potentially benefiting a very select few and not the industry as a whole. A bigger concern is that it distracts legislators from focusing on Bills that could really benefit the industry, like HR761 and SR1600.”

Conclusion

Like the Norse god after whom it was named Thorium is prone to loud and intermittent booms before fading again into the night. Those who would hope to accelerate its destiny as the cure for all global ills seem reliant upon the US Congress for their salvation. Good luck with that… The more worthy REE sector have been waiting outside the Congress to be tossed some scraps for years (and they have military applications). It’s anybody’s guess how long Thorium, with its “peacenik” aura, will take to get traction in corridors well-trodden by the US nuclear energy lobby, who have singularly shown zero interest in the blandishments of Thorium.

The Thorium lobby is quite clearly intent on stealing the thunder (pardon the pun) of the Rare Earth lobby by coat-tailing on a more serious issue and trying to bathe in the strategic aura that REEs still possess. Frankly if their cause was so worthy they would be able to make the case for Thorium on its own merits rather than hijacking Rare Earths’ more evident virtues to give themselves momentum.


Christopher Ecclestone

Editor:

Christopher Ecclestone is a Principal and mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company in London. Prior to founding Hallgarten & Company in New York in 2003 ... <Read more about Christopher Ecclestone>


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Comments

  • Fred

    The simpler the legislation, the easier it is to get it passed and the easier the administration of the laws. A few years ago, when Congress had one political party dominating, Nancy Pelosi could say “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”. REEs and thorium aren’t like health care, in that they have no political doctrine vested in them, so there are no unequivocal supporters. Rather than writing the legislation as some piece of pork that can be spliced onto some other legislation, write the laws as simple, but worthy, pieces of legislation that can pass on their own merits.

    August 12, 2014 - 11:39 AM

    • Christopher Ecclestone

      Great point Fred.. if Thorium has such strong intrinsic virtues it should not need to ride on a Rare Earth bill like a line-item for the notorious Bridge to Nowhere. Let the bill go forward as Thorium alone and stand and fall on its own merits..

      August 12, 2014 - 11:51 AM

      • Jim

        Heavy rare earths and Thorium have an almost perfect 1 to 1 correlation. Molycorp and Lynas are failing, in large part, because the deposits they chose to develop were targeted to avoid Thorium — thus no heavy REs.

        August 12, 2014 - 11:58 AM

    • REE tailings will be “safe” after Thorium removal

      The radioactivity of REE tailings will have a half life of only 6.7 years (from Ra228) if the Thorium is removed. Therefore this processing (and Thorium storage) would deduce the worlds background radiation by much more than it was increased by Chernobyl and Fukushima combined. Eventually it might surpass the x700 higher increase caused by above ground nuclear testing during the cold war! But that was OK because it increased our SECURITY!

      Dr Michael Mallary, PhD, High Energy Physics, Cal Tech 1971

      August 14, 2014 - 9:58 AM

      • Correction to REE tailings will be “safe” after Thorium removal

        I have to confess to shooting my mouth off first and then doing the calculation. So here is the correction. In order for the sequester Thorium radioactivity to be comparable to the estimated Fukushima release (i.e. ~20 million Curies), the entire rare earth reserves (i.e. 99 Mtons vs 16,000 tons/year now) would have to be processed assuming the Th/REE = 10% as with the Guarapari Brazil Black Sands. Hybrid and plugin cars and wind turbines will certainly greatly increase the annual consumption of REE by orders of magnitude. So sequestering Thorium will eventually make a Fukushima type dent in world background radiation.

        Dr Michael Mallary, PhD

        August 14, 2014 - 12:01 PM

  • Jim

    Chris, so what are you “denying, 1) the mineralogical relationship between rare earths and thorium, 2) the direct co-relationship between thorium and heavy rare earths, 3) the regulatory issues of 10 CRF 40 making the development of heavy RE deposits containing thorium problematic, 4) the history that 10 CRF 40 played in destroying the U.S. / global rare earth industry, 5) or that thorium regulations do not impact the utilization of uber-abundant thorium bearing rare earths — thus greatly undermining the economic viability of any U.S. / western RE producer…. ?

    August 12, 2014 - 11:48 AM

    • Veritas Bob

      I presume you mean 10 CFR 40.

      August 12, 2014 - 12:01 PM

    • Christopher Ecclestone

      I am missing something here. Where is this whole “truism” about Thorium appearing with heavy rare earths coming from? Mountain Pass is mainly Light Rare Earths but contains meaningful Thorium and yet there are heavy-biased REE deposits that don’t have meaningful Thorium.

      Is the “direct co-relationship” backed up by any book on elementary chemistry? If so, please send us in its direction…

      In mining there is the concept of deleterious elements (mercury, arsenic etc) and sometimes, alas, they kill a project dead. So be it… we have no shortage of REE projects with low- to no-Thorium content, so why bother with those that need corralling a majority of Congressmen and Senators behind some bill. Sounds like unnecessary and futile herding of cats to me..

      August 12, 2014 - 12:05 PM

      • Jim

        Until the mid 1960s Monazite and other thorium bearing heavy rare earth mineralization supplied 99% of the worlds rare earths.

        Until the mid 1980s Monazite and other thorium bearing rare earths supplied 99% of the worlds heavy rare earths.

        This is well documented by the USGS (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLR39sT_bTs graph at 2:05)

        With the introduction of 10 CRF 40 and corresponding IAEA regulations these resources were eliminated from the U.S. and western value chain.

        When you make reference to heavy RE deposits that contain no thorium, you are talking about the Ionic Clays in China, running at 99.5 to 99.8% overburden (and generally not found outside China)

        August 12, 2014 - 12:25 PM

        • fred

          Monazite happens to be rich in thorium. Other REEs minerals and deposits not so much, some even very little. This is why thorium and REEs should be dealt with separately.

          You have 3 choices for handling thorium. You can handle it like a disease such as ebola, setting up a leper colony for it. Or you can dilute it to the point where it is considered relatively harmless. Or you can develop uses for it, such as power generation from thorium reactors. The first 2 choices require spending money, while the third choice ultimately generates money. Why is it that politicians tend to think that you can only fix a problem by throwing money at it?

          August 12, 2014 - 12:45 PM

          • Jim

            Fred, correct. Fixing the problem by creating uses for Thorium is the answer. This is exactly what HR 4883 proposes.
            Unfortunately Chris misleads his readers by stating that 4883 would use government funds to achieve its goals.
            HR 4883 creates two privately funded and operated corporations.

            One would offer fully integrated RE refining services to any RE producer.

            The other would be an international platform for the commercial development of Thorium energy systems.

            August 12, 2014 - 12:54 PM

          • Walter J Horsting

            Fred,

            1984 EPA rules on Thorium prevent the US from developing, processing REEs effectively in the US. REEs are tied at the hip with Thorium. You could carry a knapsack of Thorium on your back your entire life without injury. It has a 15 Billion year half life. Radon from a gas cooktop is more radioactive. As part of the Thorium gang, we want government to get the hell out of the way, and the DoE stopping US research on Molten Salt Reactors but having an NDA with Chinae.

            August 14, 2014 - 9:07 AM

        • Gareth Hatch

          There are a number of HREE-rich hard-rock deposits under development that contain very low quantities of Th and U. The Norra Karr deposit in Sweden is a good example, with Th and U levels actually less than the usual background levels expected.

          There are also a variety of locations outside of China where ion-adsorbed clay deposits can be found. These including a number of Asian countries, and Brazil.

          August 12, 2014 - 2:40 PM

          • Jim

            China’s RE monopoly is directly linked to regulatory changes in Thorium. The U.S. has no economic future if we cannot participate in a modern technology economy that includes rare earths.

            China uses its monopoly position to forcefully-attract RE technology companies.

            The direct cost of hard rock mining REs in Sweden or Ionic Clays in Brazil may prove economically (or environmentally) unviable and dose not solve issues related to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.

            August 12, 2014 - 2:51 PM

          • Gareth Hatch

            China’s RE monopoly is directly linked to the downstream market’s longstanding, shortsighted mantra of “lowest cost at any cost”.

            August 12, 2014 - 11:13 PM

          • Northern Minerals Investor

            Gareth, a few months ago I asked Northern Minerals: “what do they do with the Uranium and Thorium that is extracted”

            it was explained to me in the concentrate stage where they can use magnetics to reject 97% of the ore during beneficiation (25 times) – then the next stage is to feed the concentrate ( 3% of the ore) into the hydrometallurgy plant, all the impurities are extracted during hydrometallurgy including the uranium and thorium – those impurities are then mixed back into the 97% of the ore rejected at the concentrate stage – and then it’s returned to the ground

            and they can do this because Northerns HREE rich deposit contains very low quantities of Th and U

            August 17, 2014 - 9:01 AM

      • Christopher Ecclestone

        Check out Spectrum and Northern Minerals on the ASX for ionic clay potential… at Spectrum its as easy as using a grader to scoop the stuff up…

        August 12, 2014 - 2:56 PM

        • Jim

          99.5% waste. No environmental issues with this one…. ?

          August 12, 2014 - 3:05 PM

  • Christopher Ecclestone

    “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”… We have moved on from Monazite sands (i.e. the North Carolina deposits pre-WW1) so why bother with them when there is no shortage of deposits where the deleterious element (Thorium) is non-existent or can be easily dealt with, without executing legislative or metallurgical backflips.

    August 12, 2014 - 12:33 PM

    • Jim

      Molycorp’s heavy RE content is .1%. Lynas’s heavy RE content is not much better.

      Low Thorium equates to high light REs. Molycorp and Lynas have so much Ce and La that as they produce much needed Nd and other economic elements they flood the market with Ce and La — resulting in losses for up to 80% of their production.

      Chris wants you to believe that Thorium is a dangerous element, but it is common and can be safely stored (runs at up to 14% on some beaches).

      August 12, 2014 - 12:44 PM

      • fred

        If thorium is so harmless, then why the fuss? Perhaps it’s that it produces radon gas, a leading cause of cancer. Do you have a radon detection kit for your house? Do you want to guess where that radon comes from?

        August 12, 2014 - 12:50 PM

        • Jim

          Fred, thorium decays to radon regardless of its use or disposal. 4883 proposes a ‘thorium bank’ that would hold all thorium and capture the radon. The radon would decay to lead in 4 days.

          Please see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLR39sT_bTs

          August 12, 2014 - 12:57 PM

          • motherearth

            Thank you Chris, you did mention GWMG in this piece and here is a link to where their thoruim maybe going. http://www.thorium100.com/Thorium%20Refinery%20Plant.html

            August 12, 2014 - 1:10 PM

          • fred

            Jim, you can present the data any way you want, but people still buy radon detectors for their homes. I forget who I’m quoting, but in economics there’s a famous line that “Seasonally adjusted, Lake Erie never freezes”.

            August 12, 2014 - 3:15 PM

          • Jim

            Fred, Once again, Thorium decays to Radon regardless of human interaction. Today 50% of global rare earth demand is dumped into tailings lakes. Why not utilize this resource, the one that has a history of successfully supplying the U.S. and the world with REs and Heavy REs.

            The alternative, to date, has burned through about $6 billion and has no real prospects for success.

            August 12, 2014 - 3:37 PM

  • fred

    Tip O’neill, the former US Speaker of the House of Representatives, famously said that “all politics is local”. So there are a small number of US Congressmen (and women) who will be interested in REE and thorium legislation, because of mineral deposits in their home states.

    I think only perhaps 80% of politics is local. The other 20% of the time, getting legislation passed with them is like trying to teach a dog algebra. You have to start with “one woof plus two woofs equals three woofs”. At the national level, it’s keeping the legislation simple.

    For politicians at the state level, all politics truly is local. At the federal level, you’re mostly just spinning your wheels. At the state level, you can get things done.

    August 12, 2014 - 3:24 PM

    • Jim

      Fred, The problem is not simple and any workable solution must be proportional to the problem.

      U.S. regulations created the problem. U.S. regulations must solve the problem. Eliminating regulatory controls over Thorium is a non-starter.

      Creating a privately funded and operated facility for the safe storage of Thorium is a simple solution relative to changing internationally accepted standards regarding “Source Material”.

      By congressionally mandating that this facility develop future uses for Thorium solves the next big problem — creating a platform to challenge China’s fully funded program to create a new monopoly in Thorium energy (Chinese officials have publicly stated their intent to control global IP and commercial distribution).

      Please keep in mind that the legislation’s goal is to promote U.S. economic and national security needs.

      None of the RE projects promoted by Hatch or Ecclestone can solve these problems. As regards to REs the much larger problem is refining and metal, alloy, magnet and component capabilities.

      Molycorp USA does not have any real domestic capabilities beyond oxides. They ship all high value oxides to China for value adding. Lynas’s LAMP facility does not produce anything beyond oxides either. Committing more capital to independent RE producers does not solve the larger problem.

      China’s internal rare earth value adding infrastructure includes 2 large cities — almost exclusively dedicated to rare earths. Many of these highly specialized facilities are government owned or subsidized.

      This is the size of the problem. What is your simple solution ?

      August 12, 2014 - 4:06 PM

      • Christopher Ecclestone

        Let’s face it the problem is US corporates wanted cheap REEs and sent the US industry down the gurgler in the search for cheap.. as they have done in every other strategic metal except beryllium… nothing has changed.. corporate America may mouth platitudes of patriotism but they are first into first class on the next plane to Beijing when it comes to shopping for their REEs… germanium.. gallium, antimony etc etc

        August 12, 2014 - 4:14 PM

        • Jim

          Chris this is generally true for many U.S. corporations but not for German and Japanese corporations who’s economies are dependent on high-end, value add products.

          It is also not true for defense contractors who love high priced inputs, as their profits are based on total cost.

          Anyway, what is your point: F#@% the USA ?

          August 12, 2014 - 4:35 PM

      • fred

        China and India are on the verge of commercial use of thorium energy reactors. The technology has been there for many decades. Why hasn’t it been used in the US? Because politicians thought it good that uranium reactors’ byproducts could be used for nuclear weapons. Now that the world has more nuclear weapons that it could ever possibly want, the only thing keeping thorium from being used in the US is the lack of a catalyst to jump start the industry. My suggestion? Accelerated depreciation of perhaps 3 to 5 years for CAPEX, with unlimited carry forward of unused deductions. Utility companies wouldn’t be paying any tax on new thorium power plants for many years to come. Over the long haul, they wind up with the very same depreciation deductions that they would have had anyway. They get increased cash flow up front, and profit from the implicit interest to be saved. But the government, in the long haul, gets increased income to tax.

        Storing thorium out of site somewhere is like paying people to be on welfare. Quite often this produces generations of families dependent on welfare. So we’ll store thorium on into infinity. Instead, put it to use, like the rest of the world is starting to do.

        August 12, 2014 - 4:39 PM

        • Jim

          Fred, Per HR 4883 the rare earth refinery would fund the storage of Thorium.

          The people on welfare are the people out of jobs because their technology jobs went to China (in search of a “guaranteed” RE supply).

          As the U.S. drifts further and further away from a technology economy the number of people on welfare will continue to increase.

          I should also point out that no individual corporation or western country is willing to develop Th-MSR on a stand alone basis. The risks associated with this technology are not primarily technological or financial. The risks are regulatory and winner-take-all risks associated with Chinese IP claims and enforcement.

          If you don’t like welfare you are really going to hate it when China controls the global distribution of Th-MSR…

          August 12, 2014 - 5:09 PM

          • fred

            The US had thorium reactors decades ago. Perhaps we should dust off the blueprints.

            August 12, 2014 - 5:21 PM

          • Jim

            Fred, the patent holder to Light Water Reactor technology (LWR: the type currently in use) also invented the Molten Salt Reactor (thus Th-MSR).

            Unlike LWRs this Molten Salt liquid fuel reactor could not blowup, meltdown, cause a wide spread radiation release and burned up 99% of the available energy (resulting in almost no waste).

            The technology was killed off by the DoD / DoE because it was not dependent on the solid fuel cycle and the massive infrastructure needed to produce U-235 and Plutonium for weapons.

            Today the U.S. government is spending billions to destroy weapons grade Uranium and Plutonium (a make work project that makes welfare look like a good investment) .

            Today China is racing ahead to develop this technology and no western governments are able to take on the development costs.

            Private industry will not take on the financial risks until the regulatory risks are resolved. H.R. 4883 solves these problems and allows the private sector to take on the development cost without the regulatory risks.

            The alternative is buying the book but not reading it….

            August 12, 2014 - 5:48 PM

  • Mark

    Hi Chris,

    Don’t forget about Bokan as the low thorium solution to the US HREE supply conundrum. Ucore is advancing rapidly toward our pilot study and have successfully removed Th and U to produce a purified mixed concentrate. We expect to return these elements underground in paste backfill. No Th and no transport issues.

    Any press that brings attention to the HREE situation in the US is helpful but it is very important to get a broad perspective on the issue.

    Informative and entertaining as always.

    Mark

    August 12, 2014 - 4:16 PM

    • Jim

      Mark, What are Ucore’s plans for refining & value add ?

      A basic refining facility cost about $1 billion. Developing the Ucore deposit will cost at least that much.

      Oxides are basically useless to all end-users and the defense industry, so do you plan on shipping your concentrates / oxides to China (like Molycorp)?

      If so, you have only advanced China’s monopoly control over the U.S., Japan, Korea and the EU and put your investors at the mercy of China.

      I am not sure what the point of developing Bokan is when the U.S. dumps 50% of global demand every year ?

      The rare earth problem is not a resource issue, it is a regulatory, refining a value adding infrastructure problem.

      Burning up $2 billion on Bokan so that they can supply China, who does not need the supply, is a pointless exercise. Who will clean up the mess after the ‘developers’ cash out ?

      August 12, 2014 - 4:30 PM

      • fred

        REE processing is another industry that can benefit from accelerated depreciation and perhaps government backing for loans. The federal government can make all of the fanciful statements it wants. It’s what it does that counts that matters, and it isn’t doing much of anything. States like Alaska are putting their money where their mouth is.

        August 12, 2014 - 4:46 PM

        • Jim

          Fred, Again, what is the point of spending $2 billion or more to mine REs in Alaska and ship them to China for processing into metals, alloys, magnets and components.

          News Flash: China does not need any outside supply. The official installed RE capacity is 300% of global demand (documented more that once on InvestorIntel).

          August 12, 2014 - 4:58 PM

          • fred

            We’ll just let China make all of our technology components, military equipment and such. This solution isn’t going to last much longer. While I don’t see the federal government doing much. Alaska is starting to help. We will see who else joins in.

            I would guess that your 2 billion dollars is a life of mine CAPEX + OPEX, since only a tiny fraction of that gets the mine into full production. You can argue chicken and egg all you want. In Alaska, that egg is already starting to hatch. I suggest that we all plan for a poultry industry.

            August 12, 2014 - 5:15 PM

          • Jim

            Fred I suggest you look into the cost of reopening Molycorp, the cost of developing Lynas or the estimates for any of the other proposed projects. This is also true for the development cost for the refining assets. The $270 million in misappropriated taxpayer funds will not even cover the cost of a Feasibility Study.

            Alaska is building a bridge to a Chinese rare earth refinery.

            August 12, 2014 - 5:33 PM

      • Mark

        Hi Jim,

        Ucore proposed to produce a suite of separated oxides in our PEA delivered Nov 2012. Our CAPEX is just $221M including the separation plant. The first step in the separation process is to remove Th, U and Fe. These elements will be put into our paste backfill and returned underground as mentioned above.

        A secure domestic supply of high quality HREE oxides will change the landscape for value-add producers in the US. Impending changes to permanent magnet patents as well as the growing demand for these products is already creating exciting opportunities for our business model.

        We enjoy remarkable support from the State of Alaska through their funding arm, AIDEA (Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority), which has already committed to funding $145M of our CAPEX requirements upon completion of our feasibility statement in 2015.

        Alaska has an enviable backstop of a $50B permanent fund. AIDEA is very interested in value-add industry to complete industrial clusters supported by their State’s abundant primary resources.

        Ucore, as an independent business, is delivering consistent results toward producing HREE oxides on US soil. We expect to be part of a fully developed American supply chain for HREE products. We have confidence that these goals can and will be achieved through private initiative in a supportive jurisdiction.

        Government’s role is proven to be most effective simply setting policy to create an environment for a competitive industry to thrive.

        Thanks for all your work on these issues.

        Mark

        August 12, 2014 - 6:09 PM

        • Jim

          Mark, Again, oxides are not useful to OEM end-users, nor is there a domestic value chain to convert these oxides into something useful.

          H.R. 4883 would create the fully integrated value chain necessary to covert these oxides into something useful. Under the proposed legislation Ucore could retain ownership and all profits on their concentrates or oxides under the Tolling provision.

          Finally, I have been involved in a number of mining projects and find your CAPEX estimates to be inconsistent with the real world.

          August 12, 2014 - 6:35 PM

          • Gareth Hatch

            Hmmm – there are plenty of end use applications for REEs where they are used in oxide form – light, middle AND heavy REEs….

            August 12, 2014 - 11:20 PM

          • Jim

            Gareth, Yep and they are all intermediate uses…

            August 13, 2014 - 8:47 AM

          • Jim

            Gareth Oxides have very few direct uses. Oxides are transformed into crystals, metals, alloys, magnets and components. Even in the used in Phosphors the Oxides must be upgraded into Nitrates or other oxide configuration specific to the application.

            August 13, 2014 - 9:40 AM

          • Fred

            Jim, you might not believe the CAPEX estimates, but Alaska apparently does, and is backing 2/3 of it. It seems the investment community does also. Go onto Ucore’s website, and pick out specifics that you question. Just because you read a story about Molycorp, doesn’t mean that you have much of a feeling for REEs at all. Once size truly doesn’t fit all.

            You do a disservice to your cause of supporting that bill. If you have to invent reality (radon completely disintegrates in 4 days? 2 billion Ucore CAPEX?) to support a bill, it tells me that the foundation for that bill should get extra scrutiny. Maybe Nancy Pelosi should have told her Democrats to read the Obamacare bill before voting on it. Now even Barney Frank, the most democratic of the Democrats, acknowledges that that bill was pushed forward based upon a pack of lies. Period. If you want to push your bill forward, do the basic research that supports your position.

            As per my iron ore comparison, the thread ran out. While there have been countless (some of the 50 US states probably haven’t had real iron ore mines) economically functioning iron ore mines, there are relatively few that are active today. REEs, being widely dispersed in the crust of the earth, could probably similarly be mined in a multitude of locations. But only the mostly ecologically friendly mines will be encouraged by big governments. In spite of what you maintain, thorium isn’t always a significant component of REE mines. You can say what you want, but it just isn’t true, no matter how many times you say it. You want to buy that ten carat diamond on eBay for $50? You do it. I won’t. I know better. If you want to maintain a strong assertion that REEs always contain high amounts of thorium, you will have to discuss the ore bodies and minerals. Sure Molycorp’s monazite has too much thorium. But look at Tasman’s eudyalite. Each ore body is different. And geologists have been actively looking for REEs for only a short period of time. Much or most of Canada shares the same sort of geology as Tasman’s Norra Karr. As people search for it, they will find similar intrusives peppered across the Canadian shield.

            As per a US REE industry, it will happen. The US isn’t always going to point the prayer rugs towards Beijing. It’s an issue of such national importance that the politicians will, of necessity, have to eventually get it right. Just like Iraq. Mission accomplished, so let’s get out of there. Oops, we have to go back again. At some point Congress will eventually get it right, if for no other reason than they need REEs for their fancy military hardware. When they do pass legislation, I don’t want it to be based upon misinformation. Jim, you fight hard, but as Reagan famously said, “facts are stubborn things”. Do the basic research.

            August 13, 2014 - 10:48 PM

  • What is Your Alternate Hypothesis?

    Hey look at that! Th is right underneath Ce in the periodic table, which basic chemistry says must have very similar chemical properties to eachother. Hey, if you also read up on the chemistry of f-electrons you find that all the Lanthanides and Actinides have very similar chemical properties. So this means it must be quite a rare event for nature to randomly produce the correct chemical process to separate them. So in most instances you will find Thorium (and Uranium) mixed in with Rare Earths. Given how first chemical principals dictate that Thorium is intimately coupled to Rare Earths the burden of proof lies with you, Mr Ecclestone, that nature has produced the thermodynamically rare process to separate Th from Rare earths in ecomical quantity and concentration to supply a global economy. Oh and since US Law dictates that the DoD supply chain be located solely inside the country, the majority of these magic deposits need to be within US territory.

    Also, I imagine your are mostly a free market guy. So how else can you explain the Chinese monopoly and imbalance of supply and demand of the HREEs outside of government intervention in the form of Western classification of Thorium as a cost prohibitively regulated nuclear source material.

    Your move Mr Ecclestone. Unless of course you want the ghost of William of Ockham to show up and pronounce HR 4883 the winner.

    August 12, 2014 - 4:41 PM

    • fred

      What’s your point? That man will never be able to fly because he wasn’t born with wings? I have respect for the Chinese in that, when they want to get things done, they do it. In the US, they just form a committee to discuss it. Want to balance the budget? We’ll form a committee. It’s like the difference between only buying a book, and actually reading the book and acting based upon it.

      August 12, 2014 - 4:53 PM

      • My Point

        My point Fred is that Thorium and the useful Rare Earths are tightly bound to each other. Talking in nationally significant amounts, you cannot refine the critical heavy rare earths in the west without having to deal with cost prohibitive Thorium regulation. You cannot solved the rare earth supply chain challenges without addressing Thorium regulations. Due to this difficulty US defense contractors have to source their refined heavy rare earths or derivative components from outside the United States and this puts them in violation of long standing US law. This is supported by some pretty basic chemistry principles here.

        August 12, 2014 - 5:32 PM

        • fred

          It is true that thorium and uranium often occur with REEs, particularly in monazite. I won’t say that it isn’t a problem with REEs in general, but it isn’t so worrisome in some ore bodies. By comparison, you can mine iron in virtually every country in the world, but some ore bodies make better mines than others.

          Investor Intel has promised a series on REE minerals. I’m sure they will discuss high and low thorium contents.

          August 12, 2014 - 6:55 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            But Fred, do these special ore bodies exist in sufficient quantities to support a national scale supply chain? Basic thermodynamics says no. Using your iron ore example, if I look hard enough in the world I can cherry pick a spec of iron that is pure enough to not require seperation. In this hypothetical scenario, would it make sense to shout “hey guys, I found a speck of pure iron, we don’t need to separate iron from the ore body anymore.”. This is what you want to claim with these extremely rare, low Thorium HEAVY rare earth deposits.

            Look at Molycorps operations. The rare earths / Thorium is so chemically similar to each other, they need 34 processes just to refine the near worthless light rare earths. What makes you think nature has randomly produced such a long complicated and specific sequence of events in any quantities / concentrations significant enough to dictate national policy?

            August 13, 2014 - 11:15 AM

  • hackenzac
    August 12, 2014 - 5:28 PM

  • The Molycorp Illusion

    So if you ever want to see how complicated Rare Earth refining is, take a look at their flow diagrams. I count 34 separate processes. To summarize a complicated subject, take a look at the electronegativities of the elements (Pauling Scale): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronegativities_of_the_elements_%28data_page%29

    Many of the separation processes seperate elements by relative high/low electronegativities. So looking at low value La, Ce for example, the respectively have electronegativities of 1.1 and 1.12. Looking at the electronegativities of much more valuable Dy, Ho are respectively 1.22, 1.23. The electronegativity of Th is 1.3. So simply by virtue of the high/low electronegativity separation, the troublesome Thorium wants to stick around with the lucrative heavy rare earths more than the low value light earths.

    August 12, 2014 - 5:49 PM

    • Jim

      Molycorp Illusion, Yep and that just gets you oxides.

      If you want to produce metals, alloys, magnet or components you will need to replicate what is now hundreds of independent, government backed and government owned Chinese technology companies.

      People tend to forget that rare earths have thousands of OEM applications. One magnet does not fit all.

      August 12, 2014 - 5:55 PM

  • Harold

    That’s why Stans Energy is the answer. Watch out for this stock to soar to its all time high once an agreement is in place the the government.

    August 12, 2014 - 7:46 PM

  • DD

    Thorium technology (power generation) and rare earth associated technology require research and development activities, organisations and most importantly capable people/leaders to drive these developments. The question I have is if US is heading in this direction. How many kids out there are studying science and willing to be future technology leaders compare to India, Russia, China, Europe or even Australia.

    August 12, 2014 - 7:51 PM

  • Christopher Ecclestone

    The discussion seems to have taken a bizarre turn with a “new truism” having been invented that Rare Earth oxides are not a marketable product because they aren’t an end product. In fact, they are what most end-users want to buy because they then apply them to whatever their specific needs may be (e.g. magnets or phosphors, alloys).

    As for the US not having any processing capability Molycorp owns both Neomaterials, with its many moving parts, as well as Silmet. While the plants may not be in the US, it’s a US company that owns them.

    August 13, 2014 - 11:01 AM

    • Jim

      Chris, it is unfortunate that the well established facts like the link between rare earths & thorium and that oxides are low value inputs into the rare earth value chain are somehow “bizarre”, and new information to you. Somehow these are “new truism” to you, but basic chemistry to everyone else.

      Your “expertise” is not relevant to the topic of H.R. 4883 because it specifically deals with U.S. National Security issues that require U.S. based, fully integrated, RE value-adding capabilities.

      August 13, 2014 - 11:27 AM

    • The Molycorp Illusion

      Chris, if the oxides are such a marketable product on their own then how do you possibly explain why the Chinese leadership judges it in their interest to restrict their export: http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSL6N0QD5T820140807?irpc=932. I call tell you exactly why, because the facts of the global electronics economy are such that the highest value added is precisely at the end product. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/12/24/china-makes-almost-nothing-out-of-apples-ipads-and-i/ The Chinese rare earths exports quota is constructed precisely to drive the higher value industries inside their quota.

      Please explain how this would be in their interests if hypothetically the raw oxides are, on their own, such a high value product as you propose.

      August 13, 2014 - 1:09 PM

      • The Molycorp Illusion

        *higher value industries inside their country.

        August 13, 2014 - 1:12 PM

        • Christopher Ecclestone

          For a start I never said that oxides are high value, in fact I have never mentioned price of anything here in the Thorium string.

          The oxides are the building blocks of products that require REE inputs. Taking them to the next level is value -added.. and the Chinese game is all about keeping the value-added in all products NOT just REEs.. That is why they don’t want oxides leaving the country.. they want the whole value chain (and the skillsets and patents) onshore..

          August 13, 2014 - 2:43 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            So you admit the oxides are low value relative to the end product and thus sticking with them alone is not a “marketable product” then?

            August 15, 2014 - 4:50 PM

  • DEA

    Chris, Thorium works very well as a fuel in CANDU power reactors, not just MSR reactors, and has been used for years. The original thinking in Canada was that it would not be more widely utilized until Uranium scarcity/high prices drove the conversion to more extensive Thorium mining and refining. Surprise, surprise, the only two countries today who are actively gearing up for Thorium energy production are India and China and that effort is concentrated on their CANDU reactors purchased from Canada years ago. And that connects directly to their Thorium byproduct from Rare Earth mining. As the saying goes, “there’s a silver lining in every dark cloud”…

    August 13, 2014 - 11:19 AM

  • Bill

    $2B is far too high – nothing that expensive will get financed or run economically. A separation plant using proven technology would cost <$300M for Ucore's volumes, separate oxides including Nd, Dy, Tb, Eu and Y, and would be environmentally safe. If any of the lab technologies ever work out, that would be better. Doesn't need to be Alaska or Ucore – there are many alternatives.
    Thorium is highest in monazite, and far lower in other minerals, and can be stored safely – it just costs money. Thorium applications would be the icing on the cake.
    Downstream production (metals, alloys, compounds, etc) are relatively cheap compared to mining and separation.
    2 questions: 1) will U.S customers pay (slightly) more and step up with contracts needed to raise money, and 2) will governments support (like Alaska seems to?) with permits and licences (at reasonable cost and time) and political will?
    If no, separation and metals, etc will be done in Asia.

    August 13, 2014 - 12:51 PM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    Just posted: InvestorIntel Special Report: Rare Earth Industry Leaders on U.S. Bill HR 4883 | InvestorIntel http://bit.ly/1r9ORx5

    August 13, 2014 - 3:55 PM

  • Steve Mackowski

    Having worked in the REO and Th fields for many years, both in development and at times with the IAEA, I read with amazement at the arguments above. I have said for many years that the solution to the REO (and Th) development issues we face depends on collaboration.
    Europe, Asia and China all are presenting collaborative models. North America? Well read the above again. You have the solution to your REO (and Th) problem in front of your eyes.
    If I was a policy maker in the North America REO space (or a potential funder), all I see is a lack of common direction. A place full of risk. Not some where I would prefer to be.
    It has been said by many that the development (read funding) of the REO space is waiting for Lynas and Molycorp to show the way to profit. I would also suggest that the REO development companies need to show solidarity through a common direction.

    August 13, 2014 - 8:36 PM

  • Jim

    Steve Thank you.
    The very basis of H.R. 4883 is cooperative and collaborative. The structure is designed to minimize risk and share rewards. The truth is that there will be no / low profits on the resource end. This should be obvious to anyone who understands this market and the pricing power of China.

    August 13, 2014 - 9:12 PM

  • Dr A. Cannara

    Like Monckton, and many actual “deniers”, Chris seems uneasy with his lacking knowledge and so uses playground name-calling to try to shore up his crippled logic.

    This burp immediately exposes Chris’ childish ignorance: “Thorium frequently appears as an unwanted guest “.

    Actually, Chris, if you had something valuable to tell investors about minerals here, you’d know that one of the most valuable sources of Rare Earths is Monazite, and it is typically over 4% Thorium.

    You’d also know, and explain, that Thorium has long been used in important applications like top-quality lenses, welding rod, lantern mantels, nuclear research, etc. So why the defensiveness and gratuitous name-calling re those promoting more Thorium uses, and concomitant defense of our Rare-Earth markets?

    Are you consulting with the Chinese RE monopolies, Chris? Do they know you aren’t the handsome fellow in the photo?
    ;]
    With this oddly uninformed barb re your “thorium lobby”…

    “… if their cause was so worthy they would be able to make the case for Thorium on its own merits rather than hijacking Rare Earths’ more evident virtues – See more at: http://investorintel.wpengine.com/rare-earth-intel/thorium-hard-swallow/#sthash.Rj2vPk7n.dpuf

    …you suggest that maybe you are helping the Chinese maintain their 90+% monopoly of RE supplies, and their price gouging. Are you, Chris?

    The World Trade Organization has alerady dinged China for some of their monopolistic RE efforts. Is the WTO part of your fantasy “thorium lobby”, Chris?

    I hope this publication isn’t out much coinage for the misinformation you’ve put out under their name. Hey, maybe you got the fellow pictured to write it for you? Now that would make sense.
    ;]

    Dr. A. Cannara
    650 400 3071 (feel free to call and discuss, Chris)

    August 13, 2014 - 11:42 PM

    • Fred

      In math, they call it set theory. Monazite is a subset of REE minerals. REE minerals are not a subset of monazite.

      In the “Wizard of Oz” Dorothy was surprised to learn that not all witches are wicked.

      August 14, 2014 - 1:56 AM

    • Christopher Ecclestone

      If it wasn’t for the inclusion of a phone number I would have to say this posting is trolling.. maybe its real.. but deluded.. my photo is not my photo? Compare it to the video Tracy posted yesterday..Maybe like Saddam, I have a flock of body doubles running around.. pass me my tin foil hat..

      And me being a Chinese cat’s paw?! That’s a laugh. I am the CEO of a company trying to break the Chinese monopoly of Antimony mining and processing. So how does that fit your thesis? I have for years advocated Western countries having strategic stockpiles of STRATEGIC metals to get around potential Chinese leverage in a crisis situation. However I am not recommending stockpiles of buttons and pencil erasers just because there happen to be manufacturers of these that need the gov’t to take some excess stock off their hands.

      I follow the universe of REE explorers/producers and wannabes and frankly if comparing REE’s to a horse race, most of the monazite wannabes have already been sent to the glue factory…

      You even manage to contradict yourself for if you don’t believe my claim that Thorium is an “unwelcome guest” then what is it? A welcome by-product? For if it was welcome then it would not need a House Bill to deal with unwanted excess Thorium! QED..

      August 14, 2014 - 2:57 AM

      • Jim

        Chris you tend to hold on to your past errors like a child holds on to a blanket. The Thorium Bank is not subsidized by the government… it does not use taxpayer money. It is funded via the RE cooperative. Thorium is a companion element via basic geo-chemistry (see Alternate Hypothesis above). The world of Monazite producers is alive and well — they produce Phosphates, Titanium, Zircon, Iron and many other basic commodities every single day. NRC / IAEA regulations, circa 1980s, force them to now dump this material back into the ground or tailings lakes. H.R. 4883 is necessary to fix the unintended consequences of government regulations. These regulations played a key roll in China’s assent and monopoly control of rare earths across the globe. Mining projects that avoid Thorium (sub .05%) end up with low value Bastansite deposit with near-zero heavy REs (and typically 80% Ce and La). China retains control of the profitable heavy RE market and its competitors go bankrupt (see MCP, LYC).

        I suggest you view https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLR39sT_bTs

        August 14, 2014 - 11:06 AM

        • Christopher Ecclestone

          I hope that isn’t the type of charm offensive you turn on legislators! Might explain why the two original sponsors of S 2006 let it die a natural death!

          I am bemused by the reference to the RE Cooperative.. so far most of the REE companies that I have spoken of want this cooperative like a dose of the bubonic plague… maybe coercive would be more accurate than cooperative.

          August 14, 2014 - 11:37 AM

          • Jim

            Chris, thanks for letting know who you are actually working for (your comment above)… Too bad your clients aren’t in on this little deal of yours. I guess they can continue enjoying all of the tax-losses you help them generate.

            August 14, 2014 - 11:56 AM

          • Jim

            Bob, by keeping the government out we won’t have those problems.

            Remember, the key to H.R. 4883 is to correct the NRC regulations that caused a global meltdown of the rare earth industry outside China.

            August 14, 2014 - 2:58 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            Strange how you refer to coercion here. So what is the coercive force here Chris, what possible stick does the government have over the Rare Earth companies you speak for, I mean to? Could it be the Thorium regulations are the means of coercion or could it be that it pulls back the curtains and reveals the monetary difference between the worthless light rare earths and the lucrative heavy rare earths.

            August 15, 2014 - 4:57 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            I should also note that its been two days since I explained in detail why Thorium and Heavy Rare Earths are joined at the hip by some pretty basic chemistry. You have yet to address this point. Perhaps you would concede that Thorium and Heavy Rare earths are nearly chemically identical to each other and thus, the quantity of truly economically recoverable rare earths without regulatory entanglement to Thorium is highly neglible on a national policy scale, ie the scale addressed by HR 4883.

            August 15, 2014 - 5:09 PM

          • Fred

            Continuously repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Period. Thorium and REEs are not joined at the hip. Monazite, a REE mineral, has high thorium content. Eudialite, another REE mineral, does not. Different minerals and different ore bodies have differing amounts of thorium, some high, and some low.

            What is joined at the hip is the law your pushing for, and the original law that it is supposed to “fix”. Rather than trying to re-invent geology just to pass your bill, you can fix the original bill just by repealing it. Isn’t that simple?

            August 15, 2014 - 9:01 PM

          • Jim

            Fred for the first decade and a half of the rare earth industry Thorium bearing Monazites supplied 99% of the worlds rare earths. Up until 1984 Thorium bearing Monazites supplied about 50% of the worlds rare earths and 99% of the worlds heavy rare earths. Due to NRC / IAEA regulations defining source material these far superior RE resources were eventually eliminated from all western supply chains. This was the beginning of the end for all western RE producers of oxides, metals, alloys and magnets (or is this all just coincidence ?).

            Today Molycorp and Lynas intentionally developed low Thorium RE deposits and are facing bankruptcy because they can only produce light REs.

            Your lack of historical knowledge and understanding of the legislative process a reflection of everything wrong with the United States today.

            In all fairness, you are entitled to invest all of your money into silly little RE projects destine for failure. However, that does not mean the rest of the country needs to take that journey with you.

            August 15, 2014 - 10:59 PM

          • Fred

            Jim

            You argue history. Way back when, mankind made tools out of flint. I think we are beyond this. Whether your favorite LREE companies survive is indeed problematic.Just because they use monazite, doesn’t mean that all REE miners must. While you’re worried about trhe history of flint knapping, the rest of the industry is moving forward.

            August 15, 2014 - 11:50 PM

  • Christopher Ecclestone

    Joined at the hip? More distant cousins than Siamese twins..

    As for oxides being low value, that is how Neomaterials made the money it used to make.. the value of REE oxides are as variable as the number of rare earth elements (excepting maybe Lutetium) and also as variable as the price on any given day.. would you have said REO prices were “low” in 2010-11?

    August 15, 2014 - 5:47 PM

  • The Molycorp Illusion

    “More distant cousins than Siamese twins…” Lets start here:

    Is a clever slogan all you got to argue against the chemistry?

    Do you deny that Thorium and rare earths are both f-group elements, a group noted in even basic chemistry text books as all having highly similar chemical reaction properties?

    Do deny that the reactions that separate rare earths and thorium do so by segmenting them into high/low Electronegativity groups?

    Do you deny that all the light rare earths except Pm and Sm have an electronegativity of ~1.1 and the heavy rare earths plus Pm and Sm have an electronegativity of ~1.2? Do you deny that Thorium has an electronegativty of 1.3? Thus, in combination with their f-block properties, renders it nearly impossible for nature on its own to conveniently separate thorium and the heavy rare earths in quantities sufficient enough to base national economies on?

    Do you deny that Molycorp needs >30 chemical processes just to separate some near worthless light rare earths out because the f-block elements are just so darn chemically similar to each other?

    Do you deny that Thorium regulations only economically allow for a process sequence that selects for low electronegativity and works it way upwards because to do the opposite would enhance thorium concentrations above regulatory limits?

    All these statements of mine are falsifiable to the point of pleasing George Soros. Really, if you were in the right here (which you aren’t) it would be quite easy to disprove me. All you gotta do is list all these magic deposits of low thorium content rare earths that you claim exist and calculate how many years of US demand they would supply. Otherwise, Occam’s Razor applies and rules by basic chemistry, that Thorium is very tightly correlated with heavy rare earths.

    (My destruction of your pricing / value argument to follow)

    August 15, 2014 - 9:15 PM

    • Fred

      Continuously repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Period. Thorium and REEs are not joined at the hip. Monazite, a REE mineral, has high thorium content. Eudialite, another REE mineral, does not. Different minerals and different ore bodies have differing amounts of thorium, some high, and some low.

      What is joined at the hip is the law your pushing for, and the original law that it is supposed to “fix”. Rather than trying to re-invent geology just to pass your bill, you can fix the original bill just by repealing it. Isn’t that simple?

      August 15, 2014 - 9:20 PM

    • Fred

      We are not dealing with theoretical physics. We’re dealing with the real world, real rocks and minerals. What is there is there. and, guess what, your 5 minute study of physics just hasn’t got it figured right.

      August 15, 2014 - 9:31 PM

      • The Molycorp Illusion

        Ok Fred,lets talk real numbers then. What is there?Just how rare is your unobtainium, I mean Eudialyte? How many years of US demand of each REE is contained in identified economically recoverable Eudialyte deposits?

        August 15, 2014 - 9:44 PM

        • Fred

          Read Tasman’s NI 43-101 report. According to them, they have a valuable quantity of dysprosium (ever hear of it?) and other HREE’s at Norra Karr.

          August 15, 2014 - 10:11 PM

      • The Molycorp Illusion

        And as I predicted before, you went and cherry picked Tanbreez, the one discovered deposit in the entire world without Thorium and Uranium in the ore body. So by your logic, if I go out and find a microscopic amount of pure iron, we should shutdown all smelting operations right?

        August 15, 2014 - 9:56 PM

        • Fred

          Read Tasman’s NI 43-101 report. According to them, they have a valuable quantity of dysprosium (ever hear of it?) and other HREE’s at Norra Karr.

          Continuously repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Period. Thorium and REEs are not joined at the hip. Monazite, a REE mineral, has high thorium content. Eudialite, another REE mineral, does not. Different minerals and different ore bodies have differing amounts of thorium, some high, and some low.

          What is joined at the hip is the law your pushing for, and the original law that it is supposed to “fix”. Rather than trying to re-invent geology just to pass your bill, you can fix the original bill just by repealing it. Isn’t that simple?

          August 15, 2014 - 10:14 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            Fred continuously cherry picking and abusing statistics does not make your case any more valid, nor does it overturn laws of thermodynamics. I am familar with Norra Karr so lets talk them now that you brought it up.

            Yes, the ore body has 15 ppm thorium but how much ppm heavy rare earth content? The ratio of the two is a far better measure of how troublesome the thorium is because when they go to separate out the f-block elements from the rest of the ore body, the thorium will follow with it in proportion to their relative abundances. You can have a dilute thorium body along with a dilute heavy rare earth body but when you go to refine, when you concentrate the heavies you concentrate the thorium. The more heavy concentration you need to do, the more thorium concentration you have to deal with.

            Remember, to optimally deal with the enhancement regulations, you have to keep the Thorium in the majority mass stream. If you start your process sequence by removing just thorium from your ore body, you’re in violation.

            August 15, 2014 - 11:07 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            Its the same thing with Tanbreez as well. The don’t have 0% Thorium in their deposit, they have <.05% and whats the concentration of the heavies in the ore body again? Once you go to refine, you'll find that the abundance of thorium in your processing streams will balloon and that's where the regulators will nail you.

            August 15, 2014 - 11:12 PM

        • Fred

          Tasman is claiming that in the average content of thorium in samples is 10.3 parts per million. This is lower than rock used locally for construction, and they are exploring the possibility of using their mining debris, untreated for thorium removal, for local construction.

          Indicated HREEs are stated to average 2,900 parts per million. In other words, there are 281 times more HREEs than thorium.

          Continuously repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Period. Thorium and REEs are not joined at the hip. Monazite, a REE mineral, has high thorium content. Eudialite, another REE mineral, does not. Different minerals and different ore bodies have differing amounts of thorium, some high, and some low.

          What is joined at the hip is the law your pushing for, and the original law that it is supposed to “fix”. Rather than trying to re-invent geology just to pass your bill, you can fix the original bill just by repealing it. Isn’t that simple?

          August 15, 2014 - 11:42 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            What’s your source and the PPM of the light REEs?

            August 15, 2014 - 11:50 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            I found it NVM

            August 15, 2014 - 11:58 PM

    • The Molycorp Illusion

      To Fred’s credit, he did point out an error in how I stated the situation. So I will now revise my statement.

      *list all these magic deposits with a low ratio of thorium concentration RELATIVE TO HEAVY RARE EARTH CONCENTRATION that you claim exist and calculate how many years of US demand they would supply.

      August 15, 2014 - 11:44 PM

      • Fred

        You’re throwing out the wild “facts”, you do the homework. If you had read Tasman’s NI 43-101 report for Norra Karr, you will see the very numbers I quoted. Tanbreez was your idea. It’s privately owned, so I frankly don’t follow it.

        Continuously repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Period. Thorium and REEs are not joined at the hip. Monazite, a REE mineral, has high thorium content. Eudialite, another REE mineral, does not. Different minerals and different ore bodies have differing amounts of thorium, some high, and some low.

        What is joined at the hip is the law your pushing for, and the original law that it is supposed to “fix”. Rather than trying to re-invent geology just to pass your bill, you can fix the original bill just by repealing it. Isn’t that simple?

        August 16, 2014 - 12:02 AM

        • The Molycorp Illusion

          Ok lets talk the Tasman numbers. http://www.tasmanmetals.com/i/pdf/Technical-Report-July2013.PDF , TABLE 1-1

          I count that the total inferred rare earth oxide content at 0.64% (including Y) I see a yttrium oxide content of 0.218%. I have Thorium at a ppm of 10.3 =0.00103%. Even thorium oxides will not be greater than .0012% due the heavy atomic mass of thorium versus oxygen. I see in their process chart that they drop Yttrium out before any other element. Do you Fred dispute any of these facts?

          August 16, 2014 - 1:59 AM

          • Fred

            And mercury is the closest planet to the sun. What’s your point? But you did pick out the thorium percent in your numbers. Pick your favorite numbers from the report and do the math.

            Rather than the 1 to 1 ratio of thorium to REEs that I’m continuously seeing claimed, their technical report shows a ratio of 281 HREEs to 1 part thorium. If I add yttrium and LREEs that may also be sold, that 281 number becomes much bigger, but the thorium still stays at 1.

            Continuously repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Period. Thorium and REEs are not joined at the hip. Monazite, a REE mineral, has high thorium content. Eudialite, another REE mineral, does not. Different minerals and different ore bodies have differing amounts of thorium, some high, and some low.

            What is joined at the hip is the law your pushing for, and the original law that it is supposed to “fix”. Rather than trying to re-invent geology just to pass your bill, you can fix the original bill just by repealing it. Isn’t that simple?

            August 16, 2014 - 2:28 AM

          • Jim

            Fred, I can see that you are doing your best to shine some light on this issue.

            Denouncing historical facts based on geo-chemistry and rejecting the demonstrated relevance of regulations on industry (it disappeared) is a good way to go. You also have a keen eye on the total financial decimation of MCP and LYN (history does not happen if every day is a new day….).

            Based on the recent string of comments I am going to go all out and say that you are more than just a self proclaimed “anti-history” guy. You are also a rock solid “anti-facts” kind of guy.

            It is an interesting coincidence that Chris Eccelstone has just outed himself a s an old-school “F^#$ Science” guy.

            This is so cool… It is funny how you found each other…. It is almost romantic.

            August 16, 2014 - 10:39 AM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            Fred, lets go and work out what happens if when Tasman has to go refine these Rare earths for okay. You can see right in their flowsheet that all the f-blocks plus Y are going to stick together. That’s the “YCO3 + RECO3 Precipitation”, thus confirming what I’ve been trying to tell you guys all along here, f-blocks stick together. What they have not put in their flowsheet where the thorium is going. Even though both Tasmetals and you Fred, claim that Thorium is too low in concentration to warrant any investigation, I strongly beg to differ as the concentration of Thorium relative to rare earths is the important metric on account of the following analysis:

            So following the flow sheet, Tasman is going to first go out and separate the f-blocks from the rest of the ore body, included in those f-blocks, BY THE LAWS OF CHEMISTRY, will be Thorium. In that product stream we can estimate the concentrations of the of component including thorium.

            Thus,
            Just by separating out the f-block elements of the Tasman ore, they will have (.00103 %Th)/(.64 %REE & Y +.00103 %Th) =0.161% Th in their product stream.

            So next they drop out the low hanging Yttrium fruit (cause its the most chemically distinct, not being an f-block element). When they do so they wind up with (.00103 %Th)/(.64 %TREO & Y +.00103 %Th – 0.218 %Y203) = 0.244% Thorium in the raffinate.

            So due to nature of the electronegativity of your f-block elements and optimizing the thorium concentration, Lanthanum gets dropped out next, yielding (.00103 %Th)/(.64 %TREO & Y +.00103 %Th – 0.218 %Y203 – 0.0644% %La2O3) = 0.288% Th in the raffinate.

            Next up is dropping out Cerium, yielding (.00103 %Th)/(.64 %TREO & Y +.00103 %Th – 0.218 %Y203 – 0.0644 %La2O3 – 0.148 %Ce2O3) = 0.494% Th in the raffinate.

            At this point Tasman is at twice the allowed concentration of thorium for rare earths processing, 0.25% [10 CFR 40.13(c) ]. The nuclear regulator will then show up and say “Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.”

            And guess what best case scenario is that Tasman is no better off than Molycorp, hamstrung by thorium regulations with the only viable product being the near worthless Cerium and Lanthanum.

            Fred, don’t take my word for it. If you are seriously considering investing with these guys, in your due dillegence, find out where the Thorium is going in the refinery and what the thorium regulations are. Don’t let them sweep it under the rug with claims just about the unprocessed ore. I am confident you will come to the same conclusion I have come to, that rare earth refining invariably concentrates Thorium and thus, runs afoul of some pretty shoddy regulations that need fixing.

            August 16, 2014 - 4:43 PM

          • Fred

            Jim, applying the study of the history of the LREE miners would not encourage HREE miners to imitate them. And the HREE miners will likely pick different minerals to mine, because they are not bound by history to follow the path of the LREE miners.

            August 16, 2014 - 10:08 PM

          • Fred

            MCI, you were claiming a 1 to 1 ratio of REEs to thorium. This would be 50% REEs and 50% thorium. You ran some numbers which are showing 0.161% thorium in a combined thorium + REEs. So the REE to thorium ratio, from your numbers, would be (100% – 0.161%) to 0.161%, or 620 parts of REEs to 1 part thorium, using your numbers. My numbers were conservative, only using HREEs, which showed a 281 to 1 ratio.

            Then you proceed on an analysis to systematically remove the different REEs. If you remove all of the REEs, there will be zero REEs, and all of the product will be thorium.

            The math on your product stream, by selectively removing REEs, you calculate the result to be 0.494% thorium, at which point it becomes necessary to throw everyone in jail. This would be a ratio of 201 parts of REEs to 1 part thorium. You still haven’t reached your 1 to 1 ratio.

            As for the actual processing of the REEs, I’m sure the processors will obtain the necessary permits to process and remove the thorium. I never said that there was no thorium at all. But we are clearly dealing with a minor side product.

            And the 1 to 1 REEs to thorium ratio stays at hundreds of parts of REEs to 1 part thorium.

            Continuously repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Period. Thorium and REEs are not joined at the hip. Monazite, a REE mineral, has high thorium content. Eudialite, another REE mineral, does not. Different minerals and different ore bodies have differing amounts of thorium, some high, and some low.

            What is joined at the hip is the law your pushing for, and the original law that it is supposed to “fix”. Rather than trying to re-invent geology just to pass your bill, you can fix the original bill just by repealing it. Isn’t that simple?

            August 16, 2014 - 10:54 PM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            Fred, I never claimed that they would exist in a 1 to 1 ratio You are confusing me with another poster. As for the jail comment, that was just a monopoly reference to liven things up. Heaven forbid if I bore some people by just sticking to a dry engineering analysis.

            What I am arguing though is a strong correlation between the concentrations of rare earths and the concentrations of Thorium. These low Thorium concentration deposits you love to cite also coincide with low rare earth concentration. (The high Thorium deposits also correlate strongly with high rare earth concentration) Thus as much as you have to concentrate the rare earths you will concentrate the Thorium and then even more so when you do product separation.

            That being said, I have clearly established that Tasman will enhance the Thorium beyond the regulatory limits to get at any REE higher than Cerium, not even halfway through lights. Do you see anything wrong with my calculation?

            On your note of the economic impact of going above thus limit, you appear to be dismissing the significance of this out of hand. To which I question if you are aware just how seriously atomic regulatory agencies view issues they see as ones of “proliferation” or even how much they charge per man hour to evaluate source material enhancement licenses or even to renew them. Clearly the impact was strong enough to put an end to the mountain pass era.

            Also a note, if you look at the history of this industry, including the recent history with Molycorp. Everything I am saying not only is consistent with that history but also explains it based upon these pesky laws of chemistry that keep getting swept under the rug.

            August 17, 2014 - 12:26 AM

          • Fred

            MCI, sorry but I thought the repeated REE : thorium 1 : 1 comment was from you. I must be in error.

            My concern during most comments is using Molycorp and monazite as the norms. As the REE industry progresses in the ROW, these may become the antique model T Fords of the future.

            You are bringing to mind that the low thorium content is hiding under the low HREE content. The only reason Norra Karr is economical is because it’s right at the surface. This gives me a different perspective for comparing thorium content with other mines. But low thorium content is still low thorium content. Norra Karr doesn’t have to worry about thorium in mine tailings, and this is by far most of the thorium problem with mining REEs.

            And I wouldn’t doubt you that the processing of the ore concentrate will be closely watched because of thorium content.

            August 17, 2014 - 1:38 AM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            Now to my key point, contrary to this poorly informed article, you cannot divorce Thorium regulations from Rare Earth mining.

            For every deposit out there, once you get past the f-block, REE + Y (+Th) concentration phase , they all will produce similar Thorium concentrations inside the refining facility and its effluent.

            Furthermore, the economics of rare earths though favor vertical integration as high up the product chain as you can get, as evidenced by the Chinese use of permissible Thorium policy coupled with some good old fashioned mercantilism to capture end use industry.

            You are correct Fred that Norra Karr could sell the raw oar, but this puts them even worse off economically than Molycorp. Instead, the economics and the Thorium regs will force them to adopt the same exact business model as Molycorp, drop out the LA and the Ce, sell the rest of the concentrate to China. Repeat the same initial conditions, expect the same results.

            August 17, 2014 - 9:10 AM

          • The Molycorp Illusion

            *you cannot divorce current Thorium regulations from rare earth REFINING

            August 17, 2014 - 9:12 AM

          • Fred

            My reading of the NI 43-101 for Norra Karr has them selling concentrate, not ore.

            A recent development for Norra Karr, per a Tasman news release:
            “Using a single-phase magnetic separation courtesy of equipment manufacturer Metso Minerals, tests have suggested that it is possible to raise the rare earths content to over 86% “in less than 35% of the original mass”, eliminating the need for flotation”. – See more at: http://investorintel.wpengine.com/rare-earth-intel/tasman-top-propsect-achieving-european-rare-earth-supply-chain/#sthash.p0nr1xao.dpuf

            A recent comment on Northern Minerals may be similar in processing to Norra Karr:
            “it was explained to me in the concentrate stage where they can use magnetics to reject 97% of the ore during beneficiation (25 times) – then the next stage is to feed the concentrate ( 3% of the ore) into the hydrometallurgy plant, all the impurities are extracted during hydrometallurgy including the uranium and thorium – those impurities are then mixed back into the 97% of the ore rejected at the concentrate stage – and then it’s returned to the ground” – See more at: http://investorintel.wpengine.com/rare-earth-intel/thorium-hard-swallow/#comment-326639

            Two different mines, and fuzzy on the details, but the picture that appears to be emerging is that Norra Karr sells REE concentrate, without thorium, and that the thorium will probably be removed at the mine.

            August 17, 2014 - 12:24 PM

          • Fred

            No one has said that Norra Karr has any intention to sell the raw ore. Their PEA anticipates selling a mixed REE carbonate.

            A recent press release:
            http://investorintel.wpengine.com/rare-earth-intel/tasman-top-propsect-achieving-european-rare-earth-supply-chain/
            notes processing flow sheet revisions designed to reduce CAPEX and OPEX. The anticipated significant OPEX reduction will probably be gobbled up by the significant drop in basket price of the REEs. I would expect the CAPEX reduction to be more modest. The emphasis is on low CAPEX, just to obtain the financing.

            Tasman appears interested in moving up the food chain, rather than down it.

            August 17, 2014 - 3:35 PM

  • The Molycorp Illusion

    *low thorium content heavy rare earths

    August 15, 2014 - 9:16 PM

  • Christopher Ecclestone

    I have got to laugh… Try discoursing to a bunch of Congressmen that the reason they should pass your bill is “shared electronegativity” and you will never again see so many grown men nod off at the same time..

    August 16, 2014 - 3:28 AM

    • Jim

      Chris — yes, science is so obviously laughable … why base any decisions on it ?

      Back in the 60’s when the U.S. government decided to travel to the moon. Instead of developing staged rockets and using the moon and earths gravity to make the journey NASA just supped up a Chevy Nova and launched it off a big ramp.

      Science is for idiots — yea I am laughing about that too….

      August 16, 2014 - 10:26 AM

    • The Molycorp Illusion

      So when you lose the argument, try to change the subject or just dismiss all objective reality completely, right?

      August 16, 2014 - 2:43 PM

      • Tracy Weslosky

        Dear Cavan; Please start using your real name as I have — and sharpen up your professional commentary. This thread has had some remarkably interesting, thoughtful and intelligent candor. You have at times been a good contributor, but this brashness you utilize behind this pseudonym, gets you parked in time out. Thank you everyone for your sharp insight, and we have literally half a dozen follow up articles from the outstanding debate that has occurred.

        Thank you. Tracy Weslosky

        August 16, 2014 - 3:35 PM

        • The Molycorp Illusion

          Instead of addressing the professional debate points I have raised, Mr. Ecclestone accused me of being boring. So instead of a professional debate I instead believed he wished for a more lively, less professional conversation. I apologize for this misunderstanding.

          August 16, 2014 - 5:22 PM

  • Gareth Hatch

    So many comments, it’s hard to keep track. A few additional points of my own:

    – While the light rare earths elements (REEs) La and Ce may be of low value on a unit mass basis, significant volumes of these two elements are still required by the supply chain;

    – The light REEs Pr and Nd are of significant value, and the demand for these two elements in the production of permanent magnets is only going to increase. Dismissing all light REEs as being of little to no value is therefore myopic. It may well be that future producers of REEs from light REE dominated deposits, will focus solely on the production of Nd and Pr from those mines, and may well be able to do so economically, depending on the project requirements;

    – The REEs in the monazite in a typical beach sand source are maybe 5% heavy REEs (Tb-Lu + Y) tops. The thorium “issue” aside, processing such materials will result in lots of light and middle REEs as well. That’s OK, I guess, but let’s not pretend that monazite is going to solve the heavy REE sourcing challenge, or that it won’t result in a whole bunch of light and middle REEs as well.

    August 16, 2014 - 12:06 PM

    • Jim

      Gareth USGS data sets put heavy REs from Monazite at 8%.

      Heavy REs in the Pea Ridge Monazite deposit run at 10%.

      Apatite, my other favorite source for REs, runs at 25% heavy RE.

      August 17, 2014 - 5:46 PM

  • hackenzac

    Obviously, Mountain Pass, the “high” thorium content monzanite mine is in current operation so whatever NRC thorium regulations they have bumped in to concerning concentrated thorium that exceeds some regulatory threshold, it has not been a mine killer so it follows that if they can do it, so can others, especially those with other types of ore bodies that are considered lower in nuisance elements such as Bokan where plans to mix it with back paste and shot crete back in to the hole from whence it came from seems viable enough of a solution to my amateur understanding. Obviously, Molycorp has to separate thorium before shipping their oxides overseas so I’m wondering just what they’re currently doing with it and are they at some sort of storage impasse with it? As for a refining cooperative, it seems better for the government to promote it rather than mandate it and revocation of existing thorium regulation may be the better idea. As far as the ability to refine, if LCM can do it in the UK, it’s doable in the US and Molycorp likely has the IP to do it in the US. Right?

    August 17, 2014 - 11:54 AM

    • Gareth Hatch

      Mountain Pass is primarily a bastnaesite deposit, which tend to have lower Th contents than monazite deposits.

      August 17, 2014 - 12:08 PM

  • Sarit Sotangkur

    I believe the economic reasons for this bill go like this.
    Mining companies are usually separate from REE refining companies. Prior to the ruling to make thorium a “Source Material”, monzanite was a by product of mining other ores like iron and titanium. That monazite was then sold to REE refineries at low cost (considering it was a by product) which was able to extract the REE and supply the world market. After the ruling, no refinery wanted to touch thorium bearing monazite, so that monazite by product was dumped back into the earth. China, on the other hand, was able to process their monazite (a by product of their iron mining) and easily produce the heavier REE’s at the typical low cost that the Western world could have, if they could process their waste monazite from other minings. Now western countries are trying to directly mine REE’s and only those that contain little to no thorium which mostly contain the lighter REE’s not the heavy REE’s common in monazite. This poses 2 problems, 1) we’re missing the heavy REE’s 2) the cost of mining REE’s will always be higher than China’s which gets the monazite almost for free.

    The proposed bill would allow ours and member countries “waste” monazite to be processed in this privately funded refinery. Entities using the refinery would pay a tax that funds the thorium bank where all the “troublesome” thorium could be stored safely and uses for it can be developed. This allows 1) extracted monazite “waste” to become part of the value chain 2) heavy REE’s to be extracted 3) thorium to be saved for future use 4) end dependency on China for heavy REE’s 5) keep companies and jobs from relocating to China in order to secure access to REE’s 6) national security

    May 14, 2015 - 5:04 AM

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