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Rare Element Resources receives final NEPA approval

The date of: 2023-11-20
viewed: 1
Rare Element Resources receives final NEPA approval for rare earth processing and separation demonstration plant in Wyoming


source:Green Car Congress

Rare Element Resources (RER), a company seeking to advance the Bear Lodge Rare Earth Project in northeast Wyoming, announced that the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has finalized its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the company’s planned rare earth processing and separation demonstration plant to be built in Upton, Wyoming. This completes the federal permitting activity prior to construction.

The DOE NEPA review was consistent with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s NEPA review, with both resulting in a finding of no significant impact. The company is awaiting next-stage budget approval from the DOE, which is providing approximately 50% of the project costs, to commence construction.

The demonstration plant will advance the company’s proprietary recovery and separation technology, and the operational and economic data generated will be essential to the design of a commercial-scale plant.

Brent Berg, President and CEO of RER, said that plant operations could begin as early as summer 2024.

RER’s proprietary process for rare earth element (REE) processing/ separation has been advanced by General Atomics (GA) and its technology partners and has successfully separated REE oxides into saleable products, most significantly neodymium/praseodymium (Nd/Pr) oxide. The process is expected to result in greater efficiency and lower environmental impact than current industry methods.

In 2017, an affiliate of General Atomics (GA), one of the largest technology companies in the world, took an equity position in RER. GA’s consortium brought the full force of their development team to refine and enhance the recovery technology.

The first stage of pilot plant testing undertaken in 2020 successfully upgraded a Bear Lodge sample to 92 - 97% REEs. Next the radionuclides, naturally occurring with many REEs, were reduced to below regulatory standards, and the cerium, currently not marketable, was removed.

The final step, a high-efficiency solvent extraction process, produced a >99.5% pure Nd/Pr oxide and other REE oxides amenable to further processing. This work demonstrated REE recovery could be done at a lower cost and in a more environmentally sound way than traditional methods.

Bear Lodge Project. The Bear Lodge Project is rich in the REES critical to high-strength permanent magnet manufacturing. The mine site is located in northeastern Wyoming, just off of I-90, and has easy access to power and supporting infrastructure. The processing facility will be located nearby, in the town of Upton, Wyoming, in an established industrial area.

The Bear Lodge Mountains are part of the Black Hills Uplift, formed by the intrusion of a Tertiary-aged alkaline igneous complex during the waning stages of the Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary Laramide Orogeny. The uplift has a northwesterly orientation and extends from the western South Dakota - Nebraska border through northeastern Wyoming into south-eastern Montana.

The exposed basement consists of Archean and Proterozoic schist, gneiss, and granite overlain by Paleozoic and Mesozoic clastic and carbonate sedimentary rocks that were subsequently eroded from higher elevations. The Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks were subjected to large-scale monoclinal folding that encircles the Black Hills Uplift. Younger Oligocene, Miocene, and Pliocene sediments disconformably overlie the older sedimentary and igneous rocks at lower elevations of the uplift.

The Bear Lodge mining district is in the Bear Lodge Mountains, near the western end of the northern Black Hills intrusive belt. The Bear Lodge Mountains expose and are underlain by multiple alkaline plugs, sills and dikes intruded into Archean basement and Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediments approximately 38 to 51 million years ago, forming an elongate, northwest-trending dome.

The Bear Lodge REE deposits are sited near the axis of the elongate dome and are associated with carbonatite and silicocarbonatite dikes, veins, and stockwork hosted by the Bull Hill and Whitetail diatremes. The northwest alignment of diatremes extends from Bull Hill through Whitetail Ridge to Carbon Hill and coincides with numerous north- to northwest-striking alkalic dikes and mineralized zones.

As proposed, mining would most likely be small, open pit. Both the Bull Hill and Whitetail Ridge mineralizations begin within a few meters of the surface—making them ideal for open pit mining.

Open pit mining normally utilizes conventional truck and excavator open pit methods. Topsoil and overburden would be removed first to expose the mineable ore and stockpiled separately for reuse in reclamation activities. When necessary, blasting would be employed to loosen large blocks of ore. There are several ore types to be mined from the two deposits, all of which would be hauled by dump truck from the mine site to separate ore stockpiles.

Mining would mostly likely occur in expanding benches, with expected depths averaging approximately 500 feet deep over the life of the mine. Total disturbance for the mineable pit is expected to be approximately 240 acres over the life of the mine.

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