Military Could Invest In Mining Critical Minerals In Wyoming

The U.S. military has a huge interest in rare earth materials, something Wyoming has an abundance of. For instance, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 stealth fighter takes 850 pounds of rare earths to build.

Pat Maio

June 23, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Pentagon brass is interested in investing in a few critical minerals mining projects, particularly rare earth opportunities that have emerged in Wyoming.

For sure, there’s a laundry list to pick from.

Since 2023, the Defense Production Act (DPA) has awarded $267.9 million to 10 companies to advance critical minerals projects, like rare earths, that could help with large energy storage batteries and specialty metals.

None of the 10 companies are Wyoming-centric, but the military is looking to invest in rare earths mining projects, something that Wyoming has.

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.

The military has a huge interest in rare earths.

For instance, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 stealth fighter takes 850 pounds of rare earths to build, while the average electric vehicle (EV) takes about 1 kilogram of rare earth minerals, or 6,000 metric tons to produce 6 million EVs.  

“We invite companies in Wyoming and across the U.S. to engage with the Department of Defense on critical mineral issues,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Jurgensen told Cowboy State Daily.

“We are making strong progress in the mining sector, and the DOD is focused on the entire rare earth supply chain, to include separation and processing, metallization and magnet manufacturing,” Jurgensen said.

New Opportunities

He said that the military is “actively considering new opportunities” to include more nontraditional businesses such as mining, which is vital part of the rare earths supply chain.

For example, the Pentagon’s Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization office has invested $10 million to explore the development of "extraction technology" and alternative sources of rare earth minerals from coal ash, acid mine drainage and other waste streams.

“We are looking to build long-term resiliency to meet future demand without dependencies on foreign countries,” Jurgensen said.

In fact, the DOD is looking to establish a “mine-to-magnet supply chain for rare earth materials” — and some Wyoming companies could have a role here, he said.

There are several rare earth minerals companies in Wyoming rushing to get their shovels in the ground first and move to commercial-scale production on their mining and processing operations.

These include Australia-based American Rare Earths Ltd., Colorado-based Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. Lexington, Kentucky-based Ramaco Resources Inc. and Rare Element Resources Ltd

These companies are in various stages of launching major mining operations for critical elements and magnets in coming years. Some have even attracted takeover interest from outside investors.

For instance, American Rare Earths, which may have one of the world's largest rare earths operations near Wheatland, Wyoming, rejected a $400 million buyout offer from a group of investors from Oakland, California.

This U.S. based unit of an Australian-founded exploration company working in Wyoming may have found 2.34 billion metric tons of rare earth minerals southwest of Wheatland.

Wyoming’s rare earths mines have also caught the attention of Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart, who has gone on a global buying spree to acquire ownership in significant mines. Analysts say Wyoming is a prime target because of its world-class deposits.

Moving In

Others want to expand in Wyoming.

In early 2023, Ramaco Resources, which largely has its coal mining operations sprawled across central Appalachia, 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.

In another instance of the rush to mine rare earth minerals in the state, Rare Element Resources, 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.

Energy Fuels Resources, which has mining interests stretching across the Cowboy State’s energy heartlands, has a business strategy of straddling both uranium and rare earths.

The company is building a minerals company that is exploring acquisition opportunities

“All potential domestic sources of rare earths and critical minerals are strategically important to the DOD,” Jurgensen said.

Pat Maio can be reached at

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Pat Maio


Pat Maio is a veteran journalist who covers energy for Cowboy State Daily.