Rare Earth Metals Mine Moves Forward In Permitting Process

Jan 19, 2016

The yellow in these rock cores is a mineral called bastnaesite, which contains all 17 rare earths elements. The deposit Rare Element Resources is targeting is particularly rich in the heavier, more expensive rare earth elements.
Credit Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The Forest Service has issued a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed rare earth metals mine in northeastern Wyoming. 

The Bear Lodge project near Sundance would be the first new rare earth mine in the United States in decades.

Rare earth elements are used in various high-tech applications, from smartphones to precision-guided missiles. Currently, most of the world’s supply comes from China. The only U.S. rare earth mine, in California, shut down last year after its parent company, Molycorp, declared bankruptcy.

The draft EIS is just one of several permitting steps for the Bear Lodge project, but in a press release Rare Element Resources executives called it a “major milestone.”

In the analysis, the Forest Service recommended some modifications to the company’s proposal, including changes to the mine reclamation plan and the location of waste rock disposal.

The draft is open to public comment for the next 45 days.