Wyoming is best known for its picturesque views and towering mountain ranges, but if Randy Scott has his way, it’ll become famous for something else: rare earth minerals.
These resources have been in the spotlight since China, the country that dominates global supply, threatened in May to cut off supply to the U.S. as part of the U.S.–China trade war.
Since 2011, when Scott became the president and CEO of Littleton, Colorado-based Rare Earth Resources, the veteran mining executive and metallurgical engineer has been trying to get a massive stash of rare earth — a metallic element that’s used in cellphones, electric vehicle batteries, fluorescent lights, defense, clean energy and much more — out of Bear Lodge, a small mountain range tucked away in the northeast corner of the state, about 40 miles from South Dakota’s border.
According to mining experts, Bear Lodge is home to one of the richest and highest-grade rare earth deposits in the U.S., with an estimated 18 million tons of rare earth inside. Scott thinks there could be more than that. “It’s an enormous, and enormously important, deposit,” he says.
But despite efforts to get the metal out of the ground — Rare Earth Resources has been exploring the area since 2004, while others have tried here and there to mine it since the metal was first discovered in the area in 1949 — it remains stuck in the mountain. “It’s a great resource,” says Scott. “But we keep hitting a brick wall.”
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