Rare Earth Processing Plant Opens in Colorado

By Mandy Mayfield
Liquid gallium

iStock image

A new pilot plant that will process rare earth elements necessary for many critical U.S. military weapons systems opened in June, as part of an effort to end China’s monopoly on the important resources.

The pilot plant is a joint venture between USA Rare Earth and Texas Mineral Resources Corp. The two companies previously funded a project on Round Top mountain in Hudspeth County, Texas, which features 16 of the 17 rare earth elements.

“Our objective is to set up a domestic U.S. supply chain without the materials ever leaving the United States,” said Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth.

The elements are necessary for the creation of a number of weapons systems including the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 joint strike fighter, Tomahawk cruise missiles and other munitions.

USA Rare Earth previously held two grants with the government. One was with the Defense Logistics Agency where the company successfully demonstrated high-purity separation of three rare earth elements, Althaus said.

The second grant was with the Department of Energy. The company demonstrated its ability to process high-purity separation of a different set of three rare earth elements.

“We built upon that work that we were doing and decided that we were going to open up our own processing facility … which was a decision we made late last year,” Althaus said.

Once fully commissioned, the plant will be focused initially on group separation of rare earth elements into heavy, middle and light. The final phase of the pilot will be the further separation of high-purity individual rare earth element compounds.

The facility, which is based in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, will also be involved in the recovery of non-rare earth elements with a focus on lithium, uranium, beryllium, gallium, zirconium, hafnium and aluminum, all of which are on the U.S. government’s critical minerals list.

Currently, China controls the vast majority of the global rare earth production.

Althaus said the U.S. government should pump more money into the production of rare earth elements domestically.

“There are ways to start small, … infuse the capital markets with confidence, enable companies to develop their projects here,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a positive outcome where we don’t have to rely on China for these materials.”

Topics: Research and Development

Comments (2)

Re: Rare Earth Processing Plant Opens in Colorado

Wonder why the United States would ever completely stop mining except to bring more jobs globally and help the other Countries economy. Some times its got to be just about the United States and let other countries fend for themselves. We need to take care of We The People first and our Country.

Valarie Crockett at 10:19 AM
Re: Rare Earth Processing Plant Opens in Colorado

One of the largest rare earth precious metal properties is located in Colorado, I have documentation from the USGS that shows that the area is very large. W.R grace company stated many years ago that this is the largest rare earth deposit in the world. Presiden Herbert Hoover state the siz is 1200 square miles in size. The USGS headed by Paul K. Theobald states the the are contains a heavy mineral suit rich in rare earts and gold. Mr. Hoover `s report states that the area is 30 miles wide and 40 miles long. I can verfy that the area is much larger with facts. There are microphrobe analyses that show besides gold and the rare earth this area contains all of the platinum group metals, sn, te, se, pb, cu, hg sb, as, ti, mn, fe, ag, w, cr, mo, bi and several more. The source of this heavy mineral suit is not very far from this large placer field.

Orvie Zimmerman at 11:39 PM
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