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Utah plant to reduce over-reliance on foreign rhenium imports

Perfectly closing out our rhenium month this week, Utah’s daily Deseret News has a piece on Kennecott Utah Copper’s $340 million “Molybdenum Autoclave Processing” project, a plant, which according to Kennecott’s vice president for projects and expansions, “will (produce) 10 percent of the world’s molybdenum.” At the same time, the vast complex in Magna, Utah, the construction of which began a few weeks ago, will be producing a finished form of rhenium in the process.

Kennecott has long been extracting ore containing rhenium and molybdenum out of another mine, but as part of the new project, it will now be able to produce the two metals as “a final product instead of shipping raw concentrates to other companies for final processing.” While providing a boon to the local economy, the project should also constitute an important step towards reducing U.S. reliance on foreign rhenium imports, a welcome development at a time when our import dependency for the scarce and highly critical metal rests at 86 percent.

Opportunities to harness our own resource potential are plentiful given the vastness of mineral riches beneath U.S. soil. Some domestic jurisdictions, like Utah, while sliding in the Fraser Institute’s international annual ranking of mining jurisdictions, are still better than others at providing a climate conducive to fostering investment in resource development. However, if we want to stay competitive in the long run, policy makers in Washington must get their acts together and formulate a coherent national mineral strategy, at a time when much of the rest of the world has already done so.