(Wyoming Business Report, January 19) – A mining company hoping to place a rare earth mine in northeast Wyoming came closer to actually being able to build the mine Tuesday even as the company has scaled back its operations prior to launch.
Rare Element Resources, based in Lakewood, Colorado, said in a release that it received its draft environmental impact statement from the U.S. Forest Service for its Bear Lodge mine that would be about 25 miles from Devils Tower. Delays in getting the EIS, a guiding document for environmental practices in major industrial projects, has been cited by the company as reason for cutting more than half of its staff and consolidating offices.
“The delay in getting the draft EIS meant we couldn’t provide the market with any kind of schedule for when the project would be in production,” said Robbin Lee, a former spokeswoman who was laid off in December. “The one thing the market hates is uncertainty. The natural reaction when something takes so much longer than originally anticipated is that something is wrong.”
The EIS was delayed by about a year from what the Forest Service projected.
“We need the Forest Service to keep the schedule they promised us, which is [providing] a draft EIS this winter and a final EIS and record of decision in fall or late winter of next year,” said George Byers, vice president of government and community relations for Rare Element Resources in an August 2014 phone interview. The mine was initially hoping to be up and running by this year, but it still needs a final EIS after working through the draft and a record of decision for final approval.
The draft EIS will enter a 45-day public comment period during which it is likely to hear from concerned environmentalists who say it’s too close to Devils Tower and could pose other hazards and from potential employees who will welcome the mine.
“The draft EIS is the culmination of a great deal of hard work,” stated Randy Scott, CEO of the company. “It is a major milestone in the project’s development and once again signals how far we have been able to advance the Bear Lodge Project.”
He said the permitting timeline will be updated after the comment period closes.
Jaye Pickarts, chief operating officer of the company added that getting a sustainable, profitable and reliable source of critical rare earths is the company’s goal, and adding jobs to Wyoming’s economy would be a benefit of the project.