Bonanza or myth? Miner thumps chest over Wyoming rare earths.

By Hannah Northey, Francisco "A.J." Camacho | 03/07/2024 06:30 AM EST

A mining project could singlehandedly help the U.S. break its reliance on China for elements needed for climate solutions. If it fulfills its promises.

The Bear Lodge Mountains in Wyoming hold large deposits of rare earth elements.

The Bear Lodge Mountains in Wyoming hold large deposits of rare earth elements. A new rush for the valuable metals is on in other parts of the state by an Australian mining company. Mead Gruver/AP

Fanfare around the discovery of a so-called rare earth mother lode in Wyoming is raising questions about the quality of ore waiting to be dug up and how quickly the United States can secure critical materials needed to feed booming green energy sectors and curb its reliance on China.

Australian miner American Rare Earths says it has discovered 2.3 billion metric tons of rare earth resources near Halleck Creek in southeastern Wyoming — part of a growing string of ballyhooed projects in the state generating buzz about a possible mining rush in the West.

“If managed wisely, the discovery at Halleck Creek will make the U.S. the world’s indispensable mineral supplier,” Hoover Institution historian Michael Auslin wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Wyoming Hits the Rare-Earth Mother Lode.”


The U.S. is scrambling to develop new sources of rare earths — 17 obscure elements found in everything from smartphones and electric car motors to wind turbines and jet engines. Worldwide, demand for the minerals is expected to grow at least threefold by 2040. As it stands, the U.S. Geological Survey calculates that China produces over two-thirds of the world’s rare earths, while the U.S. accounts for 12 percent. China also processes nearly 90 percent of rare earths.