Wyoming’s current coal market decline coincides with a sudden national awareness of the serious shortage of certain critical materials, including several with deposits located in the state.
With residents and lawmakers scrambling for new economic avenues, could Wyoming be the nation’s new go-to source for rare earth elements that now come mainly from China?
Last week, U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barasso sent letters to the Secretaries of Defense and Interior urging the Department of the Interior “to support the full range of domestic rare earths supply chain development, from extraction through separation and purification into the magnets, metals and alloyed forms of rare earths that are critical to our advanced weapons platforms.”
The Wyoming senators, joined by four others, stated, “It is clear that our dependence on China for vital rare earths threatens our U.S. manufacturing and defense industrial base.”
Wyoming hosts at least one deposit of these elusive minerals. Proven reserves from past exploratory drilling indicate that if the Bear Lodge project in Crook County were up and running, it could be the nation’s premier domestic source for rare earth elements.