Many of today’s technologies are possible because of a special mineral group called rare earth elements. Currently, China produces about 97-percent of all rare earths consumed, but a global race is underway to produce more. The recent discovery of rare earths in the northwest corner of the state may make Wyoming a major player, and plans for a proposed processing plant may change the game even more for producers and consumers.
Rare earth elements are among 17 elements on the periodic table with exotic names like dysprosium and neodymium, and are primarily used in high-tech and green energy industries, to make things like television sets, cell phones, wind turbines and magnets.
Rare Element Resources, a company specializing in the extraction of rare earths, plans to begin mining many of those elements in Wyoming in 2015, and they’re now hoping to open a processing plant here as well.
George Buyers is with Rare Element Resources. He says currently, most rare earths mined in the U-S are shipped overseas for processing. His company’s proposed separation plant would change that.
"In Crook and Weston county we have a fighting chance to make this the second primary rare earth element producing operation in north America and the third in the world outside of china, and so this is a critical national facility that we’re talking about here," Buyers said.
Rare Element Resources hopes to have its rare earth mine and processing plant running by 2015 and expects to create up to 120 jobs in Crook and Weston county.