Rare Element Resources Moving Operations to Upton

12 Nov 2021

By Gazette Assistant Publisher/Editor Nicholas Trandahl Jaye Pickarts, consultant for Rare Element Resources (RER), came before the Weston County Commissioners on Tuesday, November 2nd, during the regular Commission meeting at the Weston County Courthouse. RER is in the business of rare earth elements. Known as “technology metals” by the U.S. Department of Energy, rare earth elements are essential for the development of technology from defense systems, to telecommunications, to green energy tech, and to medical tech.

On Tuesday, Pickarts came bearing tremendous news for the Town of Upton and Weston County. Several years ago, RER was progressing toward opening a processing plant in Upton to refine rare earth elements mined from the nearby Bearlodge Mountains, but those plans were indefinitely halted when RER ran out of funds while navigating the permitting and regulatory hurdles imposed by the government. Fortunately, RER is back in action with funding at the ready, according to Pickarts, and with even bigger plans for Upton and Weston County.

Previously, RER’s local offices were in Sundance, at the foot of the Bearlodge Mountains, but due to a lack of public support of RER in Sundance, which Pickarts explained was about 50/50 for and against, the company has decided to relocate its office to a more supportive community--Upton, the “Best Town on Earth”. Logistically speaking, the move also makes sense because Upton will be where the rare earth elements will be processed, refined, and shipped.

Pickarts began his presentation to the Weston County Commissioners by explaining that RER still has the rare earth elements mine in the Bearlodge Mountains and the company is building a processing plant in the Upton Logistics Center, utilizing a 40-month lease on a Buffalo Creek Road property. A demonstration plant will be the first structure to be constructed, but Pickarts stated that the goal is to have a larger commercial plant up and running on the leased property belonging to Don and Judy Bartels in the future.

“This will highlight rare earth production in northeast Wyoming,” stated Pickarts. “That Industrial Park [in Upton] is a fantastic site. The next three years will highlight Upton a bit.”

Concerning Upton, Pickarts continued, “We’re in Upton now, and will start paying taxes.”

Commissioner Tony Barton asked Pickarts if RER has planned a visit with the Upton Town Council, and Pickarts answered that he was meeting with Upton City Superintendent Mark Lindstrom later that day and was going to meet with the Upton Town Council in December, especially to ask the Town of Upton about housing or infrastructure projects that have been on their “wish list” that RER could lend a hand with, as long as they were projects that would be mutually beneficial to both the Town of Upton and to RER. RER intends to ask for a similar wish list of projects from the County.

Commissioner Don Taylor asked Pickarts about the projection of anticipated jobs at the demonstration plant to be built in Upton.

“It’ll be a small plant, fifteen to twenty to craft, and twenty-five during operations,” Pickarts replied, continuing, “We will hire locally. Coal miners are great craftsmen.”

Commissioner Taylor agreed with this, stating, “Hiring locally is very important.”

“Craftsmen will be easy to get locally,” remarked Pickarts. Commissioner Nate Todd delved into the science of things, inquir- ing about to type of acid used in the refining process of rare elements. Pickarts explained they used 20% HCL. Commissioner Todd urged Pickarts and RER to keep in touch with the Weston County Homeland Security Office about the transportation and storage of potentially hazardous materials. Pickarts agreed, explaining RER adheres to strict guidelines and rules on such matters.

“What kind of waste will be generated?” asked Commissioner Ed Wagoner.

Pickarts replied that the rare elements waste will be shipped to Texas, likely using the railway at the Upton Industrial Park, though RER is still working on the logistics. The mine up in the Bearlodge Mountains will just produce dry tailings.

In closing, Pickarts invited the Commissioners to a future Open House for the groundbreaking in Upton in about a year.