MP Materials Corp. has been awarded a $35-million contract through the US Department of Defense (DoD) Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program to support the construction of a commercial scale processing facility for heavy rare earth elements (HREE) at Mountain Pass. MP Materials owns and operates Mountain Pass, the only integrated rare earth mining and processing site in North America. (Earlier post.)
HREEs have higher atomic weights and are generally less abundant than light rare earth elements (LREEs). They are essential inputs to many critical defense and commercial technologies, particularly permanent magnets instrumental to the performance of electric vehicles, wind turbines, drones, and missile systems.
In a separate contract awarded in December 2020, the DoD committed $9.6 million to MP Materials’ Stage II optimization, a project underway to restore LREE processing capabilities to Mountain Pass.
The ability to process HREEs alongside LREEs will enable MP Materials to extract and refine all rare earths required to manufacture high-performance permanent magnets. It will also enable the company to recycle all recoverable rare earths from end-of-life magnets and magnet production scrap, increasing the resiliency and environmental sustainability of the domestic supply base.
In addition to its mining and processing operation at Mountain Pass, MP Materials is developing a rare earth metal, alloy and magnet manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Materials sourced from Mountain Pass will be transformed into manufactured products at this new facility, restoring a wholly domestic and vertically integrated US magnetics supply chain.
In December 2021, MP Materials entered into a long-term agreement with General Motors to supply US-sourced and manufactured rare earth materials, alloy, and finished magnets for the electric motors used in the GMC HUMMER EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, and more than a dozen models using GM’s Ultium Platform. (Earlier post.)
To meet growing magnetics demand and promote supply chain resiliency, MP Materials’ processing facilities at Mountain Pass will accept qualified third-party feedstock and end-of-life magnets, in addition to processing the ore extracted from and beneficiated at Mountain Pass.
MP Materials’ operations provide certainty of US provenance and sustainability. Mountain Pass is a closed loop, zero-discharge rare earth production facility with a dry tailings process that recycles more than one billion liters of water per year.