Mining Futures

Open-Pit Mine in the Iron Range

Rare earth elements (REE) are vital to the future of clean energy adoption, as they are used in magnets for LED lights, electric car batteries, and solar panels. The below stories highlight new rare earths mines being developed in the United States. Most of these mining projects are on public lands and adjacent tribal lands. Each state has a very different history of environmental regulation of mining operations, and different coalitions of environmental and economic development groups either supporting or resisting mining.

We track the progress of these mines in acquiring permits and access to land. Mining scholars have evoked the term “social license” to describe how a mining company gains the support of local communities. We explore if and how new mining projects are achieving a social license to operate in the 21st century.​

The map and table below provide a snapshot of stories from the US and the level of public support for these initiatives.

  Location Metals Developer Level of Controversy* Status
Bear Lodge Mine Crook County, Wyoming Dysprosium, Europium, Neodymium Rare Element Resources, Ltd. High Stalled
Bokan Mtn. Mine Prince of Wales Island, Alaska Dysprosium, Terbium, Yttrium Ucore Rare Metals Inc. Moderate Construction Underway
Elk Creek Mine Johnson County, Nebraska Niobium, Scandium, Titanium NioCorp Developments High Permitting Underway
Lemhi Pass Mine Lemhi Pass, Idaho Neodymium, Thorium US Rare Earths Inc Moderate Stalled
NorthMet Mine Saint Louis County, Minnesota Copper and Nickel PolyMet High Permitting Underway
Pea Ridge Mine Washington County, Missouri Cerium, Dysprosium, Lanathium, Thorium, Yttrium MFC Industrial Ltd. / Alberici Constructors Moderate Stalled
Round Top Mtn. Mine Hudspeth County, Texas Beryllium, Dysprosium, Thorium, Uranium, Yttrium Texas Mineral Resources Corporation High Stalled
Silver Peak Mine Esmeralda County, Nevada Lithium Carbonate Albemarle Corporation Low Complete

    *Level of Controversy

  • Low - The proposed mine was opposed by a few individuals using traditional avenues of engagement, predominantly based in print media (letters to the editor, opinion editorials and press interviews), public comments submitted in response to an environmental impact review and participation in public hearings.

  • Moderate- The proposed mine was opposed by many individuals, who may have organized as a grassroots coalition against the project. Those opposing the project have engaged in a variety of pressure techniques including letters to the editors, public comments submitted in response to an environmental impact statement, the development of websites that help network and organize opposition, and the issuance of counter simulations and data regarding the project.

  • High- The proposed mine was opposed by many individuals often represented by several organized groups. These groups used diverse means to try to prevent the project, including lawsuits, the formation of political parties, the creation of alternative impact statements and visualizations, and the participation at public hearings and the submission of public comments.