Sharing Our Progress
What better way to spend a beautiful fall afternoon in Wyoming than with your friends – federal, state and local leaders, community members and shareholders – sharing the progress we’ve made and our vision for the future. Rare Element Resources, along with General Atomics, had that pleasure when we held an open house on Monday, October 9, in Upton, WY, to celebrate our ceremonial groundbreaking on our rare earth processing and separation demonstration plant.
It was great to see so many familiar faces at the Upton Community Center. As I stood before the standing-room-only crowd, I realized that only in Wyoming would you find such strong support from such a diverse group of people for an undertaking that is critical not only to the community but for the state and the nation.
Project supporter, Governor Gordon, could not join us in person but sent an inspiring message of congratulations via a pre-recorded video that we played for those gathered. Jennifer Thomson from his staff attended as his representative.
We were fortunate to be joined by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), who reminded us through his remarks how uniquely suited the great state of Wyoming is, through its rich history of responsible mineral development, to play a key role as our nation strives for self-reliance and away from dependence on others for critical rare earth minerals. He shared his vision of what a rare earth supply chain could look like for the people of Wyoming and his fears for a nation that must rely on China for these essential building blocks, for not only our high-tech world but for many military defense applications.
Also in attendance were members of the staff from both Senator Lummis’ and Congresswoman Hageman’s offices. Among our other friends from the State in the room were Chuck Gray, Wyoming Secretary of State; Curt Meier, Wyoming State Treasurer; Rob Creager, Executive Director Wyoming Energy Authority; Representatives Don Burkhart, Chip Neiman, and Allen Slagle and Brandi Harlow, Wyoming Business Council.
Upton Mayor, Nick Trandahl, spoke about the Company’s history with the town and expressed his appreciation and ongoing support for the project. He also shared his personal experience with rare earths. He told about his time in the army and firsthand knowledge of the importance of rare earths in weapon guidance systems. He continues to see Bear Lodge as a very important project in what he deemed “these increasingly turbulent times.”
Neal Blue, Chairman of General Atomics and defense industry titan, gave the audience insight into how critical rare earths are in permanent magnet motors (PMM) and how important PMM are in electric propulsion and energy generation. As one of the largest military contractors, he also pointed out the role rare earths play in allowing micro-processing to continue to reduce in size to the atomic level and in military applications, like the launch and recovery systems for aircraft carriers. He expressed his concern about the enormous economic leverage China has through their current monopoly of rare earths and stated how important it is that America retain its leading edge in providing advance technology. He sees the demonstration plant as being a significant first step in addressing those concerns. Linden Blue, Co-Chairman, and Alec Gordon, COO of GA-EMS, also attended the event in demonstration of the significance of the project to General Atomics.
I want to personally thank the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources, the Shell 3D Visualization Center, Cole James and Program Manager, Kyle Summerfield, for the work they did in creating what I think was a very unique experience – allowing us to share our plans for the demonstration plant with visitors through a virtual reality tour. This immersive experience let participants feel like they were walking inside the plant amongst the processing equipment, which is currently being assembled offsite and will be moved to the site in the coming months.
The UW College of Engineering and Physical Sciences’ Innovation WYrkshop Makerspace, led by Rebecca Austin and including students Nick Matter, Madison Manning, Colter Helm and Joel Kirchner, provided the 3D model of the plant to help people visualize what we will be constructing in Upton over the next several months.
The goal of the demonstration plant is to produce a separated, high-purity neodymium and praseodymium oxide as well as other rare earth products. Data generated by the demonstration plant will be used for design scale up of the process and equipment and to generate the economic data for a commercial-size facility. Members of the design team from General Atomics and Rare Element Resources were present to answer questions from our guests.
This community gathering highlighted the strong partnerships that have been built, and how the people of Wyoming band together when working towards a common goal. I believe our rare earth demonstration plant is a big first step in what will continue to be a great partnership with the state of Wyoming. It is also a major milestone in our quest to build a secure, domestic supply chain for the rare earths so critical to our country’s economic health, our continued technology leadership, and our national security.
Thanks to all who took time to celebrate with us.
Great Partners are a Rare Find
Sep 13, 2023
Great Partners are a Rare Find
Any relationship works better when both parties bring something to the table. For Rare Element Resources (RER) and General Atomics, it has been a productive blend of skills and assets that has not only advanced our proprietary extraction and separation technology but has heightened national awareness of the sector, the company, and the Bear Lodge Project.
When General Atomics’ affiliate Synchron took an equity position in Rare Element Resources (RER) in 2017, it was a difficult time for the rare earth (RE) sector. In 2015, China had flooded the market, dramatically driving down prices at a critical time when new RE projects like ours were trying to get financed. Despite a great project in an exceptional location and an innovative recovery process, RER found all the progress we had made stall and the Bear Lodge Project was put on care and maintenance.
At the same time, General Atomics, a defense and diversified technology leader, was acutely aware of the importance of REs in existing and emerging technology. They understood the inherent risk in having one country control 95% of the supply of refined products and the necessity of developing a domestic rare earth supply chain in the interest of national security. After looking at the geological, environmental, and economic work RER had completed on the Bear Lodge Project, they invested in RER and positioned the Bear Lodge project to be a cornerstone for that effort.
The first thing General Atomics did was put some of their best and brightest minds on advancing our proprietary extraction and separation technology. A consortium of companies, including RER, General Atomics’ affiliate, UIT, and General Atomics' Electromagnetic Systems Group, enhanced RER’s initial design, completed extensive pilot plant testing, and developed a first-of-its-kind, real-time control software that monitors the processing throughout the system to allow for maximum efficiency. The successful completion of this work led the team to move to the next phase – demonstration plant testing – to scale-up the technology while generating the operational and economic data necessary for evaluation of a commercial operation.
The team immediately began work on detailed engineering and permitting as well as procurement of long-lead time equipment for the plant. Design is now completed, and permitting is progressing on schedule. This should allow us to begin construction later this year. Operations, which will process materials from the Bear Lodge Project, are expected to start in the second half of 2024.
I continue to be impressed by the magnitude of resources and the amazing group of professionals General Atomics has assembled to work on the demonstration plant project. Members of their team have given congressional testimony on the importance of developing a domestic source of REs and were instrumental in securing the Department of Energy’s financial participation in the demonstrated plant. Their understanding of the industry and commitment to advancing our proprietary technology and the Project means the company has accomplished more and come farther than it could have on its own. Together, we have a powerful team of scientists, mining professionals and businesspeople who can get the job done. This partnership is a rare find indeed.