New law promises support for rare earths industry
March 2, 2023
Among the bills signed into law by Governor Mark Gordon over the last week was one that gives Wyoming primacy to permit and regulate parts of the rare earth and critical minerals industry.
HB 061 does this by amending the agreement state status between the state and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to give Wyoming permitting and regulatory authority.
It was passed with unanimous support, authorizing the governor to begin negotiations with the NWC and enter into a final agreement. Upon signing the bill, the Governor immediately sent a letter to the chairman of the NRC.
“Wyoming continues to see an increased interest in rare earth mineral development and opportunities to diversify its economy through mineral extraction technologies that may produce source material,” states Gordon in the letter.
According to the letter, Wyoming is looking to expand its agreement with NRC to including mining and milling producers of source material and has passed HB 061 as enabling legislation to allow the state to do so.
“Wyoming intends to pursue amending its agreement with NRC to include regulation of source material recovered from any mineral resources processed primarily for purposes other than obtaining the source material content.”
Governor Gordon has authorized the director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to coordinate this process.
Rare earth mining is of particular industry to Crook County due to the activities of Rare Element Resources, a mining company that for several years attempted to permit a mine in the Bearlodge area to produce rare earth materials.
The process went dormant in 2016, when the permitting process was placed on hold just a week after the draft environmental impact study was released. The company announced that it was running out of funding and would downscale for the time being.
Since 2020, the company has been working towards the design and development of a full-scale pilot plant in Upton, to further test its proprietary extraction technology. In November, it was awarded a $4.4 million grant from the Wyoming Energy Authority to advance this project, which was expected to reach the final design review milestone by the end of last year.