At the start of 2015, analysts had hoped that rare earth prices would stabilize over the course of the year. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen; rare earth prices fell even further, leading US rare earths producer Molycorp (OTCMKTS:MCPIQ) to file for bankruptcy protection and put its Mountain Pass mine on care and maintenance.
That was the biggest rare earth news of the year, but there have been other stories of note as well.
For example, Ucore Rare Metals (TSXV:UCU) reported in March that it had successfully separated each of the rare earth elements from a pregnant leach solution derived from feedstock from its Bokan Dotson-Ridge project. Following that, the company paid $2.9 million to secure exclusive rights to the Molecular Recognition Technology (MRT) that brought that success from IBC Advanced Technologies.
Certainly, despite the drop in rare earths prices, there’s been plenty of rare earth news for investors to keep an eye on in 2015. To give a bit of a sample, we’ve rounded up some of our most popular stories of the year.
Without further ado, here are our top ten rare earth news stories for 2015:
1. Molycorp Files for Bankruptcy: Is it the End for US Rare Earths Production?
As mentioned above, one of the biggest rare earth news stories of 2015 was Molycorp’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. For many, the news may not have come as much of a surprise, as the company’s Q1 results, released at the beginning of May, showed that Molycorp had not yet achieved breakeven cash flow from operations, had outstanding debt of $1.7 billion and was at risk of being delisted from the NYSE. Read the full story here.
2. Rare Earths Market 2015 Q&A with Ryan Castilloux: Part 1
Partway through the year, Adamas Intelligence put out an updated Rare Earth Market Outlook report, and the Investing News Network (INN) got in touch with Adamas’ founding director, Ryan Castilloux, to get a bit more insight into the firm’s analysis. Among other things, Castilloux discussed the firm’s forecast for rare earth prices and outlined a few points for investors to watch with regards to China. Read part one of our interview here.
3. Rare Earths Market 2015 Q&A with Ryan Castilloux: Part 2
In the second part of our interview with Castilloux, the analyst spoke about Molycorp’s bankruptcy, and about a number of junior rare earths companies he had seen making progress in 2015. His list of examples included Ucore Rare Metals, Texas Rare Earth Resources (OTCMKTS:TRER), Tasman Metals (TSXV:TSM) and Alkane Resources (ASX:ALK). Read part two of Castilloux’s commentary here.
Rare Earth Market Outlook 2016
A look at rare earths in 2015 and the rare earth market outlook for 2016.
4. Molycorp to Put Mountain Pass on Care and Maintenance
When it first announced its bankruptcy in June, Molycorp stressed that Mountain Pass would continue to operate normally. However, just two months later, there was more big rare earth news when the company announced that it was putting its California facilities on care and maintenance.
“Rare earth pricing, which has declined dramatically over the past four years, was a key factor in the decision to suspend rare earth production at Mountain Pass,” the company said in a statement at the time. Read the full article here.
5. Luisa Moreno on Molycorp and the Rare Earths Market
To get more insight into Molycorp’s troubles, the Investing News Network got in touch with Luisa Moreno, senior analyst and managing partner at Tahuti Global, to ask for her thoughts. Moreno admitted that falling rare earth prices were partially to blame, and that commissioning issues at Mountain Pass had kept the plant from becoming profitable.
“It’s possible that it’s a question of time,” she said. “By trial and error, you have to run through the whole plant, and eventually you can optimize everything. And that’s fine, and I think it’s possible. But they might need a few more quarters to achieve it, and obviously they were running dangerously out of money.” Read the full interview here.
6. Could Lynas take over Molycorp?
Following Molycorp’s bankruptcy and shutdown at Mountain Pass, speculation began over whether or not the producer’s Australian counterpart might take over the company. In a bit of interesting rare earth news, Lynas (ASX:LYC) admitted to Bloomberg that it was ‘interested to understand’ the potential cost savings from a combination with Molycorp. Read the full article here.
7. Why Lynas Won’t Take Over Molycorp
In response to speculation over a potential Molycorp takeover by Lynas, Christopher Grove, president and director of Commerce Resources (TSXV:CCE) said that he wasn’t so sure about such a business combination. While Grove stressed that the most important takeaway from the situation is that people think there’s opportunity in the rare earths space, he suggested that a merger between Molycorp and Lynas may not be the best opportunity out there. Read more of what Grove had to say here.
Indeed, Molycorp reportedly failed to attract any offers for the company in the first round of bidding.
8. Rare Earth Market Outlook 2016
Our outlook for the Rare Earth market going into 2016, with comments from Jon Hykawy of Stormcrow Capital, and from representatives of Rare Element Resources (TSX:RES) and Tasman Metals. Read the full outlook here.
9. Chris Grove of Commerce Resources Talks Rare Earth Processing and the Ashram Deposit
In a November interview with the Investing News Network, Grove spoke about what Commerce Resources had been up to over the course of the year and about the makeup of the company’s Ashram deposit. Read more of what Grove had to say here.
10. The Rare Earths Junior that Just Got a Contract With the US Defense Logistics Agency
While it went largely unrewarded by the market, Texas Rare Earth Resources scored an important research contract by the US Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) Strategic Materials Division. Under the terms of the agreement, Texas Rare Earth and its partner K-Technologies worked over the following three months to demonstrate their ability to separate and refine three rare earths products at bench scale.
The Investing News Network spoke with company chairman Anthony Marchese to get more insight into the news and into the company’s Round Top project. Read the full interview here.
Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.