Rare Element Resources has announced the completion of the US Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, for the construction of a rare earth processing and separation demonstration plant in Wyoming.

To be built in Upton, the demo processing facility will demonstrate and validate the Canadian mining explorer’s recovery and separation technology.

The operational and economic data gathered from the plant will also help design a commercial-scale plant.

In 2021, the DoE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office awarded $22m for the design, permitting, licensing construction and operation of the plant.

It was followed by a $4.4m grant from the Wyoming Energy Authority, in November 2022, to cover non-federal costs.

Currently, Rare Element Resources seeks next-stage budget clearance from the DoE to support 50% of the project expenses.

“The DoE’s completion of its NEPA review was the final federal licensing approval required, and we thank the DoE for its completion of this important task,” said Rare Element Resources president and CEO Brent Berg.

“We are now advancing offsite fabrication and equipment assembly while the DoE concludes the construction and operations budget approval, which is expected by the end of November 2023.

“This DoE approval will clear the way for the commencement of site renovations and equipment installation. We have completed the relocation of our Bear Lodge sample material to a nearby location, as well as the selection of our construction contractor.”

Rare Earth Resources is developing the Bear Lodge project located in north-eastern Wyoming.

It is rich in rare earth elements, which are critical in the manufacture of high-strength permanent magnets and can experience faster demand and better prices over the long term.

Mining is expected to take place in a small, open pit. Mineralisation starts a few metres from the surface, making it a better choice.

It would mostly occur in expanding benches with mining depths averaging 500ft over the life of the mine. The total disturbance of the pit could be 240 acres during the mine life.

Berg added: “Following our planned construction period, we could see plant operations begin as early as summer 2024 – moving us one step closer to our goal of creating a secure, domestic source of separated and refined rare earths.”