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US Building Non-China Rare Earths Chain
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US Building Non-China Rare Earths Chain

Permanent & Electromagnets for Automation | AEC Magnetics

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National Defense Magaziine reports the United States is closing in on a key step in completing a China-free rare earths supply chain.  

Reporting from Mountain Pass, California, reporter Mikayla Easly says MP Materials is one step closer in its goal of building a full magnetic supply chain.  China dominates the world's rare earths, from mining to production, which poses supply chain and national security risks to the United States and other countries that depend on them for key components in smartphones, EVs, wind turbines, speakers, medical equipment and national defense applications.  The process of mining rare earths is not complicated, as they are abundant.  The challenge is in separating and processing the 17 rare earths into the individual components necessary to make these products.  The process was more or less banned in the United States; in fact, for a time, there was no mining or processing at all in the Western Hemisphere.  It is a dirty and difficullt process and harsh on the environment. 

China controls aproximately 60 percent of all the world's rare earth mining; more than 85 percent of its procssing capacity and more than 90 percent of all permanent magnetics production, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.  This leaves the U.S. vulnerable, especially if U.S. - China relations are strained.

In Mountain Pass, however, MP Materials is taking real steps to create an entire mine-to-production process.  It began mining rare earths upon acquiring the Mountain Pass facility in 2017, but had to ship the mixture of rare earth concentrate it mined to China for separation and refining.  Soon, it will no longer have to do that.  The company says it is ready to open the first rare earth refinement facility in the United States, a procedure that will unfold this year.  

Mountain Pass will be able to dry, roast, leach and purify the rare earths concentrate themselves.  Though just one processing facility versus multiple in China, it is a critically important first step, with the Department of Defense investing $10 million into the $200 million project Easley reports in her February 10, 2023, article.  Because of the importance of rare earths to U.S. defense, and to the private sector, the news from this Mojave Desert facility is eagerly anticipated. 

THREE COUNTERSUNK NEOS 400Foraging a new path in permanent magnets will come as welcome news for suppliers, such as AEC Magnetics, which import all permanent magnetics products from China.  "As one of the pioneers of importing permanent magnets from China, we have strong relationships with incredibly good sources," said Billl Klaus, president of AEC Magnetics.  "The challenges, however, are significant: U.S. -China relations, Zero Covid, the supply chain snarls, the monsoon season--all have made the price and availability volitile at times."

Klaus said that right now, AEC Magnetics is fully stocked with 10,000 or more sizes and holding powers of permanent magnets, but anticipates more volitility this year.  "We are advising our customers to buy now, buy in bulk, and avoid disruption in availability and or price."  He also invites anyone needing specific product information to please call AEC or contact us via email.