They’ve been called the secret ingredient of everything. Rare earths are a group of elements that make much of today’s technology possible, from smartphones to wind turbines to precision-guided missiles. For decades, China has dominated the rare earth market, but amid questions about the wisdom of allowing one country to control the supply chain, a mining project in Wyoming is getting underway. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, if the mine opens, it would be only be the second one in the United States and the first new one in decades.
Many of today’s technologies are possible because of a special mineral group called rare earth elements. Currently, China produces about 97-percent of all rare earths consumed, but a global race is underway to produce more. The recent discovery of rare earths in the northwest corner of the state may make Wyoming a major player, and plans for a proposed processing plant may change the game even more for producers and consumers.