Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rare Earth Minerals Discussed by Mining Investment Executive and College of Law Alumnus Cassie Boggs and Denver Post Reporter Bruce Finley

Cassie Boggs, General Counsel for Resource Capital Funds, and Bruce Finley, a reporter for The Denver Post, addressed the political, business, and environmental issues related to extraction and refinement of rare earth minerals at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law recently.

Ms. Boggs and Mr. Finley were guest lecturers in Professor K.K. DuVivier's "Mining Law" course.

Ms. Boggs, a 1981 College of Law JD graduate and a former Senior Vice President at Barrick Gold Corporation, has worked all over the world in positions in the mining sector. She has a particularly well-informed perspective on rare earth minerals since Resource Capital Funds (RCF) -- a private equity firm that invests in minerals -- was one of the original investors in Molycorp Minerals, which owns a mine in Mountain Pass, California, that produces rare earth minerals.

These minerals are highly sought after for clean technology-related manufacturing (e.g., in building clean tech cars, wind power turbines, etc.). Nathan Vardi, who writes "The Jungle" for Forbes, has gone so far as to characterize RCF's increased investment value in Molycorp as "staggering."

Molycorp, Ms. Boggs pointed out, is the only major rare earth minerals provider outside of China. She noted that in 2008 129,000 metric tons of rare earth minerals were produced worldwide, but only 4,000 metric tons were produced outside of China. In fact, over the last 10 years 96 percent of the world's rare earth minerals have been produced in China. One challenge related to this production pattern, Ms. Boggs said, is that China has increasingly restricted the export of these minerals. Consequently, the value of Molycorp has also increased. Molycorp's goal is to establish a fully integrated supply chain operation that will extract, refine, and make rare earths alloys and minerals as well as magnets.

Mr. Finley, who has reported about rare earth minerals in his role as environmental reporter for The Denver Post, identified several key challenges the world -- and the U.S. in particular -- faces with regard to rare earth minerals. One key challenge involves the extent to which the U.S. should prioritize the production of domestic rare earth minerals for security reasons.

Don Smith, Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, said the presentations made by Ms. Boggs and Mr. Finley were very useful to students whose professional lives will likely involve, on some level, rare earth minerals. "This topic is one of the key matters of our time, particularly as involves how firms and countries will access rare earth minerals. Students in Professor DuVivier's course were able to learn from two highly respected individuals, thus enriching their overall knowledge of the matter.

"All of us are indebted to Professor DuVivier for setting up this discussion and to Ms. Boggs and Mr. Finely for helping educate us on this extremely important and timely matter."

Editor's note: In the picture, Ms. Boggs is on the left, Professor DuVivier is in the center, and Mr. Finley on the right.

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