A Roland Berger Strategy Consultants rare earth study, published last year, also supports the idea that a manufacturer may put in a bid. It notes that more and more manufacturing companies are implementing a wider range of measures to counteract volatile REE prices. It adds that while some manufacturers are seeking alternatives, others are going directly to the source; in fact, half of all enterprises surveyed have already set up task forces dedicated to designing strategies aimed at securing supplies of raw materials. This mindset gained even more credibility when Toyotsu Rare Earth Canada, a subsidiary of Toyota Tsusho (TSE:8015) moved closer to securing its own REE supply by paying Matamec Explorations (TSXV:MAT) for an interest in the company's Kipawa deposit.

Any manufacturer involved in a takeover of this scale would ensure its own REE supply for the foreseeable future and in doing so would give itself a massive boost in relation to its competitors.

However, while a guaranteed supply of raw materials is appealing, another mining company might be better positioned to take over the project.

Luisa Moreno, an analyst at Euro Pacific Capital, told Bloomberg that Molibdenos y Metales, Molycorp's largest shareholder, and also the world's largest molybdenum processor, could seek to increase its holding.

However, Michael Gambardella, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Company who is also quoted in the Bloomberg article, argues that potential acquirers within the space might hold off because Molycorp's new plant is employing a refining technique that differs from that of most other mining companies.

One step forward, two steps back

While the company has come up against a number of issues, Molycorp is twice as sophisticated as it was two years ago, when its share price was six times the level it is today.

The company provides a unique buying opportunity in that its shares are currently trading at 0.77 times their actual book value, while one of its largest competitors, Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC) — which has been involved in a long and drawn out regulatory battle — is trading at a price-book multiple of about 2.1 times.