You've wrote "At some point, the market will not need much more REE/RM production, ..."
Look at the market right now and then the future market: CCE a long way to produce, GGG a long way to produce. Also the production costs of the most producers of REE are high in comparison of the low costs of Orbite Aluminae. And ORT will be much faster on the track to produce so can get bargain from the deficit in the market. China is hungry for REE's (heavy and light).
Then to the permits: When have experiences with those procedures then you know that especially in economic bad times those procedures getting eased. Orbite means jobs for the local citizens. The only real issue (what would have been in former times) would be the environment especially because of the magnitude of the project, but in 2012 nobody cares much about the environment. The change of the plant itself will pass the procedures quickly in light of jobs and taxes.