Cache of Rare Minerals in Wyoming Could See the U.S. Beat China in Mineral Resources 

Nick Fox /
Nick Fox /

In March 2023, American Rare Earths started drilling in Wyoming after estimating approximately 1.2 million metric tonnes of the mineral. However, they have significantly exceeded this estimate, collecting over two billion metric tonnes. 

And they are just getting started. According to the organization, the drilling is only one-quarter finished. Don Schwartz, CEO of American Rare Earths, highlighted the project’s potential as the resource increased by 64 percent during the drilling campaign, boosting measured and indicated resources by 128 percent. Schwartz noted that instead of the usual decrease during infill drilling, they observed an increase, 

The discovery includes oxides of neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium, and samarium. All these minerals are crucial for manufacturing various technologies. The surge in rare earth minerals is driven by high demand for magnet metals, vital for the shift towards electric vehicles, wind turbines, consumer electronics, robotics, military technologies like drones and missiles, and advanced computing chips. 

Currently, China supplies 95 percent of these minerals, with the United States importing 74 percent of them. 

American Rare Earths aims to extract and process these metals through its Wyoming Rare (USA) Inc. subsidiary. The company controls 367 mining claims spanning 6,320 acres across a mix of state, federal, and private lands in the Halleck Creek Project area near Wheatland. Additionally, according to Schwartz, they hold four Wyoming mineral leases covering 1,844 acres within the same project, recently renamed the Cowboy State Mine. 

Next month, the company plans to release estimated costs and economic projections for developing the Halleck site in the Overton Mountain area, along with estimates of the mineral value potentially extractable over the next 30 years. 

Last fall, American Rare Earths drilled to a depth of 1,000 feet, approximately twice as deep as their initial dig last March. According to Schwartz, recent drilling has shown that the ore extends further and is of higher quality, potentially making it more valuable than any other site in the state. 

American Rare Earths also operates a rare earth minerals site at its La Paz project in Arizona but does not anticipate the same promising outlook as its Wyoming operations. 

American Rare Earths face competition in Wyoming. In early 2023, Ramaco Resources reported discovering a rare earth deposit on a 16,000-acre coal mine near Sheridan, Wyoming, estimated to be worth over $37 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

CEO Swartz downplayed Ramaco’s accomplishments, stating that American Rare Earths’ resources are more significant in scale. He noted that if similar calculations were applied to their deposit, the valuation would be much higher, although economic feasibility and operational challenges must also be considered. 

The Halleck Creek rare earths discovery, where American Rare Earths operates, has been ranked by as the fifth largest in the world outside of discoveries in Greenland, Canada, and Kenya. This ranking predates the release of American Rare Earths’ latest technical data, suggesting even greater potential. Swartz is confident his operation will quickly move to the number one slot. 

But American companies aren’t the only ones interested in the rare minerals in Wyoming. Rare Element Resources Ltd., a Canadian exploration firm, is advancing the Bear Lodge Project, a significant rare earth deposit in Upton, Wyoming. It employs an innovative mining method aimed at speeding up the processing of rare earths. 

Rare Element Resources’ Wyoming unit owns 100% of the Bear Lodge mineral rights through federal mining claims in Upton. They are investing $44 million, betting that their innovative mining process will revolutionize rare earth production in the U.S. 

Given the global demand for rare earth minerals, which is approximately just 54,000 metric tonnes annually, Swartz mentioned that his company could develop a mining operation on 320 acres of state-owned land. Permitting processes on state land are typically faster than those on federally owned land, where progress can be slower despite high demand. 

Swartz expressed concerns about the market’s readiness for large-scale production. He questioned whether the market could absorb such significant volumes of material from a large mine, adding, “We’re trying to make something that’s modular and scalable and can grow in the market over time.” 

The discovery means that the United States, now a top importer of foreign rare earth minerals, can not only supply its own demand but is poised to overtake China as the most important source of these valuable resources in the world.