November 9, 2012 / 8:51 PM / in 5 years

UPDATE 1-Molycorp shares plunge on probe by U.S. regulator

* Molycorp discloses SEC probe in regulatory filing

* Shares fall 13.5 percent to $7.51 on NYSE

* Stock hits new lifetime low (Adds background, share movement)

Nov 9 (Reuters) - Shares of Molycorp fell to new lows on Friday after the rare earth producer revealed in a regulatory filing that it is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission over the accuracy of its disclosures, among other things.

The company said that it is co-operating with the SEC and cannot predict the length or scope of the investigation. It is not clear if there will be any impact on operations.

Molycorp was notified of the SEC’s investigation in August, according to the filing. No further details were given.

The company, which mines, processes and sells rare earths, reported a third-quarter loss after the market closed on Thursday, but came in above analyst expectations.

That beat initially boosted Molycorp’s shares, which opened up 6.5 percent Friday morning on the New York Stock Exchange. But the stock plunged 13.5 percent after the regulatory filing was made public, twice triggering circuit breakers.

Molycorp’s shares have more than halved in value since the beginning of 2012, weighed down by falling rare earth prices and risk-wary investors. The stock hit a new lifetime low of $7.51 on Friday, well below its 52-week high of $41.72 in November 2011.

Rare earth companies like Molycorp were once the darlings of the mining sector, as top producer China clamped down on exports sending rare earth metal and oxide prices skyrocketing.

But prices have dropped sharply since early 2011, dragging shares of producers with them. Rare earths are a small but essential ingredient in high-tech items like smartphones, tablet computers and hybrid cars.

Molycorp is one of just a handful of rare earth producers outside of China. The company has nearly completed a major expansion at its Mountain Pass mine in California.

Its shares were down 13.5 percent to $7.51 on Friday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by David Gregorio and Tim Dobbyn)

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