How the state of Wyoming could supply the US with rare earth elements Amanda Stutt ( – November 18, 2022)

Already a wind energy powerhouse, the state of Wyoming’s economy is 65% tied to mining — most of that coal mining. Wyoming has been the top coal-producing state since 1986, accounting for about two-fifths of all coal mined in the United States in 2020, but the industry has seen its reputation blackened.

Industry innovators, however, are tapping coal and its waste streams to extract rare earths, 17 essential elements to realizing an electrified economy. Mining them can be challenging as materials needed are either not yet mined, or are latent in old coal mines.

Demand for rare earths is being driven mainly by electric vehicles, wind generators, smart phones, and aerospace and defense applications, but China refines most of the world’s rare earths. There is only one active rare earths mine in the US — Mountain Pass in California, but concentrate is shipped to China for processing.

Northeast Wyoming sits on top of one of the largest REE deposits in North America, and efforts are underway at the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming to reach the day when REE extraction and processing can take place in North America.

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