Bear Lodge Project FAQ
How long will you be mining in the area?
The length of time that the mine will be operating will be determined after completion of an economic evaluation that will incorporate data generated from operating the planned Demonstration Plant. While extensive drilling and geological data exists on the project, a definitive economic study will need to be competed to determine mineral reserves, a preferred mine plan, economics and projected mine life.
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 all applicable federal laws and regulations.
How many and what kinds of jobs will be available once you begin commercial production?
The Company and its technology partners are committed to the planned construction and operation of the Demonstration Plant. This work will generate information critical to determining the nature of a potential commercial scale plant. During construction of the Demonstration Plant, the majority of workers will be contracted. During operation of the Demonstration Plant, direct employment is expected to be between 10 and 15 workers due to the smaller scale of the operation. Some of those employees will be from the Company’s technology partners. It is expected that some of the Demonstration Plant employees would transition to a potential commercial plant. A mining and processing operation would require engineers, chemical plant operators, drivers, mechanics, accountants, general laborers, and administrative support personnel. Whenever possible, the Company is committed to hiring locally.
How will the Project affect the roads?
Project transportation will be similar to traffic that exist throughout Wyoming today and will be regulated by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WDOT). Other community and social impacts from the project will require an evaluation and permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Industrial Siting Division (WDEQ-ISD) They will also determine any additional infrastructure necessary to support the Project within Crook, Weston and other neighboring Wyoming counties.
How will your operations impact the recreational use of the area?
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will consider recreational use alternatives in preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The mine area, consisting of both public and private land (approximately 1,700 acres), is not expected to be open during mining operations to recreation for safety reasons.
Any wildlife issues, such as endangered species, on the project site?
The Company completed five years of baseline studies in which no threatened or endangered species were identified within the project area at Bull Hill or Upton. Additional work will be undertaken once mine permitting activities resume.
Will surface and ground water resources in and around the Project Area be impacted?
Results from hydraulic surface testing has indicated that neither public nor private groundwater resources will be impacted as a result of mining activities. It is expected that additional work will be undertaken as part of the resumption of the EIS process. As part of that process, the Company and regulatory agencies will work to identify 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 at the proposed plant site?
No. This site is naturally protected by approximately 800 to 1,000 feet by impermeable shale and clay that overlays the entire site. In addition, chemical storage tanks will be located within approved secondary containment systems and any plant would 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. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) will direct the reclamation criteria for this material.
What would you do to protect air quality at the plant?
All dust generating devices would be outfitted with dust suppression and/or collecting bag houses. Emissions from the equipment would be captured and cleaned in a scrubber system before being vented. The system will be designed to recover and recycle the majority of the water and chemical used in the processing.
What chemicals will you use in your processing and how dangerous are they?
The recovery of rare earth elements would utilize hydrochloric, nitric and oxalic acids, ammonium hydroxide and sodium carbonate. These chemicals will be managed in accordance with applicable local, State, and Federal safety regulations and requirements and will not represent any danger to the public.
What is the impact to the public from natural radiation associated with rare earth elements?
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 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (USNRC) public health standards.
If the amount of radiation is so minimal, why do you need a license from the NRC?
The processing of the material at the plant would 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. It is our expectation that top soil will be stored and returned to areas of ground disturbance. Reclamation, where possible, will take place concurrent with operations and will be 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. Specific reclamation details will be determined as part of the EIS process.
Reclamation is bonded but what assurances are there that the amount decided on is going to be sufficient?
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.
Is there any chance blasting could impact Devils Tower?
No, there will be no impact to Devils Tower. Bear Lodge is located 22 miles from Devils Tower. Expected blasting will be localized and directed into the rock in a vertical direction. The rock is oxidized and softer, so blasting will be minimal.
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 place greater controls on their mining industry. Rare Element Resources is committed to conducting mine development, operations and reclamation, as well as plant operations in Upton, in a manner ensuring the highest degree of safety and environmental stewardship.