The U.S. has no future in the modern economy if it cannot establish itself as a viable producer of the full rare earth value chain.
The U.S. cannot look to Bastnaesite deposits such as Molycorp’s Mt. Pass to fill this gap because these deposits can only fill the light, low value, half of the Lanthanide series. The heavy half of the Lanthanide series must come from Monazite and Xenotime deposits. Monazite deposits typically contain Thorium so ‘western’ mining companies dump this material into tailings lakes to avoid regulatory risks currently associated with treatment / handling of Thorium.
Thorium, a natural byproduct from rare earth extraction, offers a safe, clean, carbon free alternative to solid fuel Light Water Reactors (LWRs). The U.S. developed and proved the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (Th-MSR) technology 50 years ago, but abandoned its development because it was not capable of producing nuclear weapons material.
ThREE Consulting is working with the Thorium Energy Alliance and others to rationalize U.S. policy on rare earths, Thorium and energy because they are all linked.