A company called Western Rare Earths, based in Phoenix, is moving forward with plans to drill into the ground for a set of 17 minerals on public lands near Bouse, Arizona in rural La Paz County.
The prize: 17 elements known as ‘rare-earth elements’, which include 15 lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium. These elements are necessary components of more than 200 products, especially in high-tech, including cell phones, hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, monitors and televisions, as well as technologies used in national defense.
The vast majority of the reserves are in China, according to the company, with as much as 97 percent of the rare-earth elements coming from there. The possibility of a mine at the site in La Paz County has been known about for around 10 years. It was established in 2011, when 195 exploratory “extremely shallow percussion 30-meter drill holes” were made, and with it, the promise of an American source for the elements, and the possibility of giving the United States more independence from foreign supply chains.
The new drilling scheme on the site will utilize 9 core drill locations to upgrade the 2012 rare-earths resource information and, separately, “to establish a maiden resource for scandium.”
The company says it could bring 500 high-quality jobs to the area, along with economic benefits that come with being designated an opportunity zone area. The Biden administration seems to be on board also, having given the company approval for an exemption to the 60-day moratorium, and with plans to have the first carbon-negative mine in North America.
Western Rare Earths plans to produce a Preliminary Economic Assessment in the second half of 2021.