Technology/Demonstration Project FAQs
When do you expect to begin construction on the Demonstration Plant?
The Company and its technology partners are awaiting certain permits and licenses for construction and operation of the Plant. The Company has received a road use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and an air quality permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ). A source material license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNCR) is pending. This license is expected in the second half of 2023.
How much will the Demonstration Plant cost?
The project has a 40-month timeline and an initial cost estimate of $44M. Efforts began in 4Q21. Design work has been completed, permit acquisition is underway and long-lead time items have been ordered. Additional information on the budget will be available as we get closer to construction. Both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) ($21.9M) and the Wyoming Energy Authority ($4.4M) have committed funds to the construction and operation of the Plant.
Why is the DOE giving you money for the Demonstration Plant?
Several studies have been completed that indicate the U.S. is at risk because it does not produce a number of critical elements domestically that are necessary for the continued development and production of advanced and green technologies. Almost all of the rare earth elements (REEs) are on this list. The DOE has been task with addressing this issue and are doing so by helping companies that have domestic resources of critical elements advance their projects. In order for the U.S. to meet it carbon reduction goals, more electric cars and wind farms are going to be necessary, both of which take a large quantity of REEs. Continued reliance on China for these materials is considered a national risk. Please go to the Rare Earth Elements section of the website for more on China’s dominance of the rare earth market.
What will be the contribution to the Project from General Atomics (GA)?
GA is a world-class technology partner and has a long history of bringing technology to market. Their work has advanced the Company’s technology, making it more efficient and successful in recovering the higher value rare earths. During operations, it will be their scientists who optimize the process. As the majority shareholder in Rare Element Resources, GA has a strong interest in the project being a success, and the Company moving toward commercial-scale production.
Why are you not just building a commercial plant?
The Company’s innovative extraction/separation technology is different than anything currently used to recover rare earths. Demonstration Plant data will allow us to confirm the scalability of the process, identify areas for improvement and better understand expected costs. This information will help de-risk the commercial project and drive a complete economic evaluation of both the processing facilities and the mine operations.
How long will the Demonstration Plant operate?
Operation will run until sufficient data has been gathered to support an economic evaluation and assure the process has been optimized. Currently that is expected to be 8 to 10 months.
Why does the Company need a road use permit?
Material will be brought to the Demonstration Plant from a 1,000-ton exploration sample stored at the Bear Lodge Project. This material will be transported over Forest Service, state and county roads under a permit.
Will the REE products produced at the Demonstration Plant be sold to generate revenue?
The Company plans on producing commercial-grade REE products. They will be used to demonstrate quality for prospective customers and potentially sold. One of the goals of the operation will be to optimizing the process to ensure the highest quality of product and the lowest cost to recovery.
Are there any risks to ground water of the chemicals you are using in Upton at the Demonstration Plant?
No. This site is naturally protected by approximately 800 to 1,000 feet of impermeable shale and clay that overlays the entire site. In addition, chemical storage tanks will be located within approved secondary containment systems and the Demonstration Plant will have secondary containment within the building.
What will you be doing to protect air quality at the Demonstration Plant?
All dust generating devices will be outfitted with dust suppression and/or collecting bag houses. Emissions from the equipment will be captured and cleaned in a scrubber system before being vented. The system has been designed to recover the majority of the water and chemical used in the processing.
What chemicals will you use in your processing and how dangerous are they?
The recovery of rare earth elements at the Demonstration Plant will utilize hydrochloric, nitric and oxalic acids, ammonium hydroxide and sodium carbonate. These chemicals will be managed in accordance with applicable local, State, and Federal safety regulations and requirements and will not represent any danger to the public. The vast majority of these reagents will be recycled within the closed system.
What role will the NRC play in the plant operation?
In addition to issuing the source material license, the NRC will regulate the radiation protection program to ensure public safety and monitor the plant operations. In addition, the NRC will require a Decommissioning Funding Plan for proper closure when the project has been completed.