Wyoming Seeks To Beat China To Become Top Rare Earths Producer

The state of Wyoming is financing rare earths mining projects that could eventually become the largest in the United States. The goal is to loosen China’s grip on the market.

Pat Maio

June 27, 20244 min read

Rare earths mine.
Rare earths mine. (Getty Images)

The state of Wyoming is financing rare earths mining projects that could eventually become the largest in the United States.

The goal is to loosen China’s grip on the market.

On Thursday, one of the leading rare earths mining projects in Wyoming received $7.1 million in financial backing from two state energy-related agencies to advance further exploration of the strategic minerals.

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, which may have one of the world's largest rare earths deposits near Wheatland, received a $7.1 million matching grant from the Wyoming Energy Authority and technical and scientific guidance from the University of Wyoming Energy Resources Council.

The grant has a term of three years and is conditioned on American Rare Earth committing dollar-for-dollar what it receives from the WEA and UW’s Energy Resources Council.

American Rare Earths is the U.S.-based unit of an Australian-founded exploration company working in Wyoming.

The grant will help advance further exploration drilling and sampling on state mineral leases, perform environmental studies for state permitting, build a pilot processing plant and study local economic impacts of its operation when it ramps up in a few years.

Economic Potential

“This significant grant not only underscores the technical and economic potential of the Cowboy State Mine at Halleck Creek but also represents a shared vision for advancing sustainable resource development,” said American Rare Earths Chairman Richard Hudson in a statement.

CEO Don Swartz said the funding represents “technical validation of the project by the state of Wyoming,” and a “shared commitment to permit and develop a commercial rare earth mine and processing facility in Wyoming.”

The development of the rare earths mining operation near Wheatland will take several years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

In March, Swartz told Cowboy State Daily that a $456 million investment in the Halleck Creek mine near Wheatland is a realistic path to tangible production over the next few years.

Production levels at the mine are expected to reach more than 64 million tons during the mine’s life.

The 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.

Horse Race

This is the not the first time that the WEA has funded matching grants for a rare earths company.

In November 2022, Rare Element Resources Ltd. received a $4.4 million grant from the WEA to advance its demonstration plant in Upton.

Canada-based Rare Element Resources is developing a novel $44 million rare earth minerals project backed by the federal Department of Energy in northeastern Wyoming.

It is further along in its development than American Rare Earths.

This company is set to complete the processing facility in Upton this summer. It is viewed as the first step toward putting the United States in a better competitive advantage with China, which has long dominated this sector.

The demonstration-scale processing plant, which was unveiled in a groundbreaking ceremony last fall, is pioneering a new, more efficient method to extract rare earths.

The company is holding the line to a July opening date for the demonstration project despite concerns about inflation driving up the construction cost of the $44 million project.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated that “potential options include changes to the project timeline and the raising of additional funds.”

The company is addressing the higher expense to build the plant with DOE and may negotiate for additional money, said Brent Berg, the former president and CEO of Rare Element Resources, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily.

A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the latest developments.

Pat Maio can be reached at pat@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Pat Maio


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