The U.S. Forest Service recently announced that it is preparing to study the environmental impact of the Rare Element Resource’s Bear Lodge project in Wyoming.
The proposed rare earths mine could be the first new rare earths mine to open in the United States in more than 60 years.
Colorado-based Rare Element Resources discovered the deposit in 2004, but it only submitted plans to mine primarily neodymium, praseodymium and europium two years ago.
Currently about 90 percent of the world’s rare earths come from China, which also imposes export quotas.
Only two rare-earth mines currently exist in other countries. One of them is Lynas Corp's Mount Weld mine in Australia, and the other one in Mountain Pass, CA, owned by Molycorp.
If it goes ahead, Bear Lodge open pit mine would cover about 6.9 square km of the Black Hills National Forest, in northeast Wyoming. Roughly 2.6 square km of the project will be on private land surrounded by forest. The mine has a useful life estimated in 43 years and includes the construction of a hydrometallurgical plant in Upton.
The Forest Service is accepting written comments from the public on the plan until April 30. A draft environmental impact statement will be presented for public comment in the spring of 2015, with a final objection period in the winter that year.
If approved, work could begin in the spring of 2016.