Massive rare earth discoveries could mean a new mining rush in the Mountain West – by Will Walkey (Jackson Hole Community Radio/Wyoming Public Media – June 1, 2023)

Down a bumpy dirt road next to a small meandering creek in southeast Wyoming lies the site of a potentially massive rare earth mineral mine. These elements are used in many emerging technologies, including cell phones and solar panels, and they’re a growing part of the future of extractive industry in the Mountain West.

But mining them here and in other places around the region is sure to have big impacts on nearby communities and the environment. This site in the Laramie Mountains is remote. Just a couple of ranches are visible below, and the desolate hillsides contain cacti, animal droppings, shrubs and rocks. A few wooden stakes remain from previous surveys of the land.

“We knew it was going to be big. We didn’t know it was going to be a monster, in the good sense of the word,” said Mel Sanderson, North American president of American Rare Earths. “We’ve drilled to 150 meters so far, and it is consistently a rich, heavily concentrated deposit to depth.”

Rare earths are a group of 17 little-known elements, like neodymium, praseodymium and scandium. Patty Webber with the Wyoming State Geological Survey said they’re in many products people use on a daily basis.

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