Idaho National Laboratory and U.S. Critical Materials sign agreement to develop new rare earth processing method


December 5, 2023

Idaho National Laboratory (INL), in collaboration with U.S. Critical Materials Corp., will engage in a multiphase collaborative project to develop a process for carbonatite ore handling, preparation and extraction of targeted, value-added metals present in the ore. This process can be achieved by invoking a combination of conventional, newly developed (within the past decade), and emerging materials handling and separations processes.

The parties to the agreement are particularly focused on developing solutions for dealing with and solving the environmental issues related to mining and processing. The need for developing these solutions has become highly significant to the security of the United States given our current dependence on Chinese supply and processing of critical materials.

U.S. Critical Materials Corp. and INL will form several integrated industry/lab technical teams. The teams will evaluate state-of-the-art separations technologies. As part of their evaluation, they will commission targeted research, development, demonstration, testing and evaluation (RDDT&E) of separations technologies useful for achieving economic, environmental, and performance efficacy targets provided by US Critical Materials Corp.

Cutting-edge technologies developed under this Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) could result in intellectual property that may lead to new patent filings at the conclusion of the eight-month term of the current CRADA.

U.S. Critical Materials President, and former United States Geological Survey (USGS) rare earth commodities specialist, Jim Hedrick said, "The U.S. has very little commercial rare earths processing. We need to be able to compete with and exceed China's rare earth processing capabilities. This research agreement, and the tech that will be developed, will help advance U.S. rare earth processing proficiency."

About INL
Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation's center for nuclear energy research and development, and also performs research in each of DOE's strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. For more information visit

U.S. Critical Materials Corp. is a private rare earths exploration, development and process technology company based in Salt Lake City, Utah with holdings in Montana and Idaho. The mineral deposits held by US Critical Materials in Montana and Idaho are unique due to high grades of rare earths, low levels of thorium, and large numbers of surface carbonatites. The Sheep Creek deposits contain some of the highest grades of rare earth minerals in the United States including at least thirteen of the currently listed "critical" minerals. Visit to learn more.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Critical Materials.


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