How long will you be mining in the area?
The Mineral Reserve Estimate identified in the preliminary feasibility study (PFS) completed in 2014 supports a 45-year operating life. Mine production rates start at an average of 500 tons per day (tpd) in years 1 through 9 due to the mining of a high-grade zone of the ore body and then be increased to an average of 1,000 tpd while processing the mid-grade ores. These numbers could change as upside opportunity exists in both the Inferred Mineral Resource within the pit and adjacent exploration targets identified on the property. Construction is expected to take about 12 to 16 months after all permits/licenses are received, a feasibility study is completed and financing is secured.
Why are you allowed to mine in a national forest?
National forests are public lands and by law are available for multiple uses, such as mining. Federal mining laws allow development of mines and quarries as long as their development, operation and closure meet these and other relevant federal laws and regulations.
How many and what kinds of jobs will be available?
Between direct and contract employment during construction, we expect to create up to 200 jobs. Operations will be staged, with the high-grade zone of the deposit being developed first. This will result in direct employment ranging from 100 to a peak of 120 starting in year 10. This will include all disciplines from engineers, to plant operators, to drivers, to mechanics, to accountants, to general laborers and administrative support personnel. We expect these jobs to have salaries and benefits comparable to other mining jobs in the State. Whenever possible, the Company plans to hire locally.
Besides jobs, what other ways will the Project benefit local communities?
The Company and its employees do and will continue to contribute to the local economy through both the payment of taxes and the purchase of goods that can be sourced locally. The Company supports events and efforts that are meaningful and important to our local communities by providing sponsorships and donations when possible. In addition, Rare Element is proud to be a member of the Chambers of Commerce in both Crook and Weston counties.
How will the project affect the roads?
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) will evaluate the impact on the roads as part of the Industrial Siting permit application process. They will also determine any additional infrastructure necessary to support the Project within Crook and Weston counties.
What amount of traffic per day is expected on the route that is ultimately selected?
During the first 9 years of mining, trucks carrying the mineral concentrate are expected to average 13 round trips per day. In year 10, the number of round trips is expected to increase to an average of 17 per day.
How will your operations impact the recreational use of the area?
As proposed, the project will result in approximately 9 miles of Forest Service roads being removed from public access. The US Forest Service (USFS) will consider recreational use alternatives in preparation of the EIS. The mine area, consisting of both public and private land (approximately 1,700 acres), will not be open during mining operations to recreation for safety reasons.
Any wildlife issues, such as endangered species, on the project site?
After five years of baseline studies, there are no threatened or endangered species identified within the project area at Bull Hill or Upton. The Northern Long-Eared Bat has been listed as threatened but the Project is not located within the area of concern.
What will your water consumption be and where will it come from?
Water use at the mine and Physical Upgrade Plant (PUG) will be approximately 74 gallons per minute, or 71,000 gallons per day. This water will be sourced from a production well located within the mine site. Recycling will be employed where ever possible. Water supply for the operation of the Hydrometallurgical Plant (Hydromet Plant) will be sourced from the City of Upton.
Will surface and ground water resources in and around the Project Area be impacted?
Results from hydraulic surface testing indicate that neither public nor private groundwater resources will be impacted as a result of mining activities. The Project plan also includes mitigation measures for protection of surface and groundwater through drainage and sediment control features. Continued monitoring throughout operations and post closure will help ensure the effectiveness of the mitigation measures.
Are there any risks to ground water of the chemicals you are using in Upton?
No. This site is naturally protected by approximately 800 to 1,000 feet of impermeable shale and clay that overlays the entire site. In addition, chemical storage tanks will be located within approved secondary containment systems and the Hydromet Plant will have secondary containment within the building.
What will you do with the mine tailings once you are done mining?
Mine tailings are the material that remain after the rare earth material is extracted. The engineered tailings storage facility at Upton will be reclaimed in accordance with WDEQ reclamation criteria with the goal of reestablishing the surface to its pre-mining land use.
Will the pit be back filled?
No. Backfilling the pit would limit future access to most of the Inferred mineral resource and a deep rare earth resource that could be potentially mined given the right market conditions. Upon reclamation, the pit becomes a small lake and will be managed by the WDEQ and the State Engineer's Office.
What will you be doing to protect air quality at the mine and Hydromet sites?
All dust generating devices will be outfitted with dust suppression and/or collecting bag houses. Emissions from the hydromet equipment will be captured and cleaned in a scrubber system before being vented. Air quality monitoring and reporting is a requirement of the WDEQ Air Quality Permit and will be studied as part of the EIS.
What chemicals will you use in your processing and how dangerous are they?
The recovery of rare earth elements at the Hydromet Plant will utilize hydrochloric, nitric and oxalic acids, ammonium hydroxide and sodium carbonate. These chemicals will be managed in accordance with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requirements and will not represent any danger to the public.
What is the impact to the public from natural radiation associated with mining operations?
Exposure estimates for the general public residing near the Bull Hill Mine and Upton Plant Site indicate that radiation exposure will be similar to background radiation levels and within the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (USNRC) public health standards.
If the amount of radiation is so minimal, why do you need a license from the USNRC?
The processing of the ore will result in the concentration of uranium and thorium greater than the USNRC regulatory threshold of 0.05%, which is the level that triggers the need for a license.
What is involved in reclamation?
WDEQ reclamation criteria have a stated goal of reestablishing the surface to its pre-mining land use. Top soil will be stored and returned to areas of ground disturbance. Reclamation, where possible, will take place concurrent with operations and is expected to be completed within two years of closure. Monitoring will continue following closure and reclamation until stabilization of soil, vegetation and water has been reached.
Reclamation is bonded but what assurances are there that the amount decided on is going to be sufficient in 45+ years?
WDEQ determines the amount of the reclamation bond. The amount will be updated annually over the life of the mine. The WDEQ updates unit rates for reclamation activities on an annual basis to adjust for inflation and contingency amounts.
The flyover video shows two pits but the scoping documents now only show one. Has the project changed?
The results from the 2013 exploration program and subsequent mine engineering now show that mining will result in only one pit. This is described in the updated Plan of Operations.
Is there any chance blasting could impact Devils Tower?
Bear Lodge is located 22 miles from Devils Tower. Blasting will be localized and directed into the rock in a vertical direction. The rock is oxidized and softer, so blasting will be minimal. Because of these factors, there will be no impact to Devils Tower.
Rare earth mining in other parts of the world seems to have created some environmental issues, particularly in China. Why shouldn’t we be concerned about those same issues here?
The modern, highly regulated mines in 21st century America are in no way comparable to mines in China. America has the strictest federal and state environmental requirements in the world. Environmental protection is a top priority, which is why the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is so comprehensive. China, on the other hand, is just starting to acknowledge environmental concern and advance efforts to place greater controls on their mining industry. Rare Element Resources is committed to conduction exploration, mine development and operations in a manner ensuring the highest degree of safety and environmental stewardship.