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Promising finds for rare earth minerals on Albany County site 

Researchers at the Halleck Creek project site, where there has been promising rare earth mineral finds.
Western Rare Earths
Researchers at the Halleck Creek project site, where there has been promising rare earth mineral finds.

A rare earth mineral mining company speculates that a site in Albany County will be relatively affordable to mine.

The company Western Rare Earths recently announced promising finds from its Halleck Creek project. Apparently, concentrations of rare earth minerals at the site are much better than expected, and the minerals extend at least 300 feet into the ground.

“We still haven’t found the bottom of it,” said Marty Weems, Western Rare Earths CEO. “If things continue in a positive trend, it could certainly develop to become a mine.”

But before that can happen, Weems said there needs to be more exploratory drilling, environmental studies and planning.

Erin Phillips, who is the program manager for the rare earth elements and critical mineral program at the University of Wyoming, added that it is notable to find the minerals in high concentrations.

“Rare earth elements aren't necessarily rare. They're just more widely disseminated," she said. "So finding them concentrated in one place is a little bit different.”

Currently, most rare earth minerals are mined in China. But, the United States is looking to stop depending on China. Wyoming hopes it could fill that role and become a future industry for the state.

“There should be absolutely no reason for this blind dependency on China and Russia,” Governor Mark Gordon wrote in a 2022 op-ed. “When we have the resources and capabilities to mine both critical minerals and uranium on American and Wyoming soil, and to partner with like-minded allies who also have plentiful resources.”

Rare earth minerals are used in many common things – like smartphones, LED lights and electric car batteries. Uranium, which is also considered a rare earth mineral, is a critical component to the success of the TerraPower nuclear plant slated for Kemmerer. Currently, the Kemmerer project is delayed in order to find and develop U.S. sources of uranium, rather than import from Russia.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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