There’s a modern-day gold rush happening in the attempt to dig green-energy rare earth minerals out of the ground. Some believe Wyoming could be America’s answer to China’s lock on the market.
And one of a handful of Wyoming companies in the rush may have hit the mother lode.
American Rare Earths Inc. has its sights on thousands of acres of land near Wheatland, Wyoming. The company disclosed in a technical report on Wednesday that it found 64% more rare earth minerals than it had originally envisioned in a March 2023 assessment of the land.
The newly disclosed figure of 2.34 billion metric tons of rare earth minerals found southwest of Wheatland by American Rare Earths Inc. could dwarf in size the 1.2 million metric ton estimates in northeastern Wyoming that one of its competitors claimed was one of the biggest discoveries in the world.
A metric ton equals about 2,200 pounds while a ton is 2,000 pounds.
“This exceeded our wildest dreams, and we only drilled on about 25% of the property,” said Donald Swartz, CEO of American Rare Earths.
The company is the U.S.-based unit of an Australian-founded exploration company working in Wyoming.
“These results are illustrative of the enormous potential of the project,” Swartz told Cowboy State Daily. “Typically, you’ll see the resource decrease as infill drilling takes place – instead we’re seeing the opposite, with only 25% of the project being drilled to this point.”
The rare earth minerals bonanza is the result of consumers starved for magnet metals integral to the green transition to electric vehicles, wind turbines, consumer goods, robots and military drones, missiles and chips needed for sophisticated computing power.
American Rare Earths wants to mine and process these metals – particularly neodymium and praseodymium – through its Wyoming Rare (USA) Inc. unit.
That business controls 367 mining claims on 6,320 acres of a mix of state, federal and private land across the Halleck Creek Project area near Wheatland, and four Wyoming mineral leases on 1,844 acres on the same project — which was renamed recently as the Cowboy State Mine, according to Swartz.
Market Not Ready
With worldwide rare earth mineral demand standing at about 60,000 tons annually, Swartz said that his company could move to establish a mining operation on 320 acres of state land where permitting would happen at a faster clip than on federally owned land. The fact that the demand is high does not enable the company to move faster on federal land.
“If you build a really big mine, can the market take all of that material?” said Swartz.
He is doubtful that the market is ready for this kind of volume.
“We’re trying to make something that’s modular and scalable, that can grow in the market over time,” he said.
In the next month, the company plans to release pencilled out cost estimates and other economic projections on development at the Halleck site in the Overton Mountain area, plus the value of the minerals that could potentially be mined over the next 30 years.
For sure, the company sees a jackpot underground.
The drilling conducted by American Rare Earths in the fall went to a depth of 1,000-feet, roughly twice as deep as last March’s maiden dig.
The latest drilling revealed that the ore is more extensive and of higher quality, making it potentially even more valuable than anything else in the state, Swartz explained.
American Rare Earths also has a rare earths minerals site at its La Paz project in Arizona but doesn’t see the same prospects as its Wyoming digs.
Others In Wyoming
American Rare Earth isn’t the only player in Wyoming.
In early 2023, Ramaco Resources announced it had found a deposit of rare earths on a 16,000-acre coal mine near Sheridan, Wyoming, that could be worth upward of $37 billion, according to an estimate calculated by the Wall Street Journal.
Swartz tossed cold water on the Ramaco estimate.
“Our resources is on an order of magnitude larger than the Ramaco Resources number,” he said. “If you did the same thing for it, you’d come up with a lot bigger number, but that doesn’t take into account whether you can [mine and process] more economically, or even do it.”
We're Number One
Mining.com has ranked the Halleck Creek rare earths find as the fifth largest in the world outside of others discovered in Greenland, Canada and Kenya – and that’s before American Rare Earths released its latest technical data.
“We’ll move up to No. 1 of what could be mined,” said Swartz of hopes for the next ranking from the site.
In another instance of the rush to mine rare earth minerals in the state, Rare Element Resources Ltd., a Canadian exploration company, is setting up shop on a large rare earth deposit in Upton, Wyoming, with a novel new mining process that promises to speed up rare earth processing. This is called the Bear Lodge Project.
The Wyoming unit of Rare Element Resources, which controls 100% of the Bear Lodge mineral rights held through federal mining claims in Upton, is betting $44 million that its mining process is a game-changer for U.S. rare earth production.
Pat Maio can be reached at: Pat@CowboyStateDaily.com
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