(Wyoming Business Report, March 2) – Among other bills signed today, Gov. Matt Mead signed a joint resolution today pushing for federal cooperation to establish better timelines for a proposed rare-earths mine in northeast Wyoming.
Among other bills signed today, Gov. Matt Mead signed a joint resolution today pushing for federal cooperation to establish better timelines for a proposed rare-earths mine in northeast Wyoming.
The bill, HJ0007, was championed by Rep. Donald E. Burkhart of Campbell County, near where the mine would be sited in Crook County. The resolution runs down a list of proposed benefits of and qualifications for the $500 million mine proposed by Rare Element Resources while saying the project has been delayed by the permitting process.
“Meeting the project’s scheduled startup depends on the timely completion of the environmental impact statement by the United States Forest Service,” the resolution states.
The mine was originally scheduled to begin the commissioning process in the fourth quarter of 2016.
“The legislature of the state of Wyoming encourages the secretary of agriculture and the chief of the United States Forest Service to understand the strategic national importance of the unique mineral resources to be produced from the Bear Lodge Project and the importance of establishing Rare Element Resources as the top domestic rare earth minerals producer and one of the top producers in the world by 2016,” the resolution states, adding that the forest service should establish firm deadlines while streamlining the process.
The resolution will now be sent to heads of the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service.
Historically, resolutions along these lines are intended to convey broad lawmaker support for major projects. The resolution received no nay votes in either the House or the Senate.
Naysayers for the project question its environmental impacts and proximity to Devils Tower. Even Brooks, the mayor of Sundance, also said he doesn’t want the nature of his town to change despite the economic opportunity it could represent. In a May 2014 interview, Brooks said he’s in a difficult position.
“I have kind of a huge concern,” he said at the time. “There’s a series of beautiful towns in Wyoming that look like an industrial wasteland and I don’t want my town to look like that.”
Others cite water-quality concerns since other, similar mines in the U.S. have had spills that caused problems.
“From my standpoint as a water specialist that really raises a red flag,” said Amber Wilson, an environmental quality coordinator for the Wyoming Outdoor Council in an April 2014 interview.