WASHINGTON: The Department of Defense (DoD) awarded a $35 million contract to MP Materials Corp. (MP) of Las Vegas, Nevada to design and build a facility to process heavy rare earth elements (HREE) at the company’s Mountain Pass, California production site. This project will establish the first processing and separation facility of its kind for HREEs in support of both defense and commercial applications in the United States.
This award is part of DoD’s rare earth supply chain resiliency efforts, and directly supports the administration’s initiatives to strengthen America’s supply chains as outlined in Executive Order 14017, America’s Supply Chains. To date, DoD has invested over $100M in enhancing America’s rare earth supply chain resiliency as part of its commitments to expanding domestic rare earth element processing capabilities and capacity.
This investment funds a commercial-scale operation designed, constructed, and operated by MP Materials at Mountain Pass. This facility will deploy new domestic HREE separation and processing technologies to enable integration of HREE products into DoD and civilian applications, ensuring downstream HREE industries have access to a reliable feedstock supplier. Additionally, this award requires MP to find innovative solutions to bring HREE production costs on par with the international market within five years of the first production batch.
“HREEs are fundamental building blocks of the modern economy, enabling trillions of dollars in global economic development via a wide range of clean energy, information technology, defense, and industrial applications,” said Andrew Hunter, who is performing the duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. “This effort will enable new domestic industrial capacity, to improve supply chain resilience and to operationalize the policies in Executive Order 14017 on America’s Supply Chains.”
This project operates under a public-private partnership, bringing together industry innovation leaders such as MP Materials with technology materials companies at home and abroad.
MP Materials Chairman and CEO, James Litinsky, stated, “This project will enable products that depend on heavy rare earths to be readily served by a U.S. supply chain. MP Materials’ domestic processing capabilities will reduce commercialization risk and improve America’s economic and national security.”
“The primary applications for HREEs include permanent magnets used in products ranging from electric motors in electric vehicles – to the energy generators within wind turbines,” stated Deborah Rosenblum who is performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy. “Without rare earths, these products would not be possible.”
In December 2021, General Motors entered into a long-term agreement with MP Materials, and they will be a key consumer of magnets produced through MP’s HREE mining, separation, and processing efforts. These magnets help create the torque that will propel their electric vehicles.
The Department has also been engaging with MP Materials on scientific advancements to address rare earth processing. In July 2021, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Stefanie Tompkins and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy Jesse Salazar visited the site and met with company leaders to discuss further developing secure, reliable, and affordable domestic sourced critical minerals used in defense and commercial manufacturing.