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CERPA Releases Paper on the Economic Analysis of Rare Earth Elements

January 31, 2022
ree paper

The Center for Energy Regulation & Policy Analysis (CERPA) in the School of Energy Resources (SER) has released a resource paper that provides an economic analysis of Rare Earth Elements (REE).

The paper entitled, An Analysis of the Current Global Market for Rare Earth Elements, is the first in a two-part series focusing on the REE industry, and aims to provide a base understanding of REE, the REE production and extraction process, an overview of the global REE market, and a summary of US government interest, policies, and funding being directed to further the development of a REE supply chain in the US.

“The purpose of CERPA is to develop and integrate technical, economic and regulatory policy analyses to benefit the state, region and the nation,” says SER executive director Holly Krutka. “Wyoming has many attributes that make the state ideal for a full-value chain REE industry, but policy support will be essential to compete with Chinese producers and refiners. Given the economic opportunity for Wyoming and the national security implications of developing a secure REE value chain, SER will continue to grow this part of our research portfolio.”

The paper was authored by Melissa Firestone, an energy economist working under contract with CERPA, in collaboration with Jada Garofalo of SER for policy support.

“Rare Earth Elements are an incredibly important set of metals, demand for which is poised to grow significantly over the coming decade,” explains Firestone. “The US is dependent upon China and the Southeastern Asian region for usable REE and products that contain REE. This paper explains why U.S. reliance on foreign REE imports is problematic, while also examining investments being made by the federal government to establish a domestic REE supply chain.”

The analysis concludes that Wyoming has many attributes that make it a favorable location for a US-based REE supply chain hub, including its own REE deposit and a host of potential unconventional sources for REE.

Researchers in SER recently published another study that draws the same conclusion on domestic critical mineral production from coal byproducts. The study highlights an assessment of critical minerals and REE occurrences in coal fly ash sourced from the Powder River Basin.

The forthcoming paper in the two-part series from CERPA will examine Wyoming’s REE resources, focusing primarily upon the Bear Lodge deposit near Sundance, Wyo. The state-specific analysis will also address some of the economic and policy challenges that remain before a viable REE supply chain in Wyoming can be realized.

“The sister paper to this one is currently being written and will focus on Wyoming,” says Firestone. “It is our intention to delve deeper into Wyoming’s REE resources and their potential, as well as examine the legal issues that must be addressed prior to breaking ground on an REE midstream project. The potential economic impacts from the commercial operation of the Bear Lodge mine and related REE concentrations and separations facility will also feature prominently to provide a full picture of all that Wyoming has to offer in this realm.”

Firestone is an applied energy economist with over 19 years of experience in the US energy industry. A University of Wyoming alumna, she earned her B.S. in economics with an emphasis in environment and natural resources in 2000, followed by a M.S. in economics in 2004. She has substantial private industry experience working as a US natural gas market fundamentals and analysis economist, and has developed expertise in public utility ratemaking and U.S. energy market fundamentals. She has worked as a consulting economist since 2013, providing niche services to companies interested in energy markets and public utilities. To download the paper and learn more about CERPA, visit the webpage.

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