Mine May Be United States' Largest Unconventional Deposit of REE Elements Considered Vital to Nation’s Strategic Defense and Energy Transition


Current Brook Mine Overall Area of Control. (Credit: WWC Engineering/Businesswire)

In association with researchers from the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (“NETL”) and analysts at mining consultancy Weir International, metallurgical coal producer Ramaco Resources, Inc. (“Ramaco”-NASDAQ: METC) today released an independent Exploration Target report with technical assessment of rare earth elements (“REE”) found at its Brook Mine in Wyoming.

Following eighteen months of extensive core drilling and independent chemical analysis, NETL researchers and Ramaco now believe that the Brook Mine property contains perhaps the largest unconventional deposit of REEs discovered in the United States.

In particular, the mine ranks among the highest relative concentrations yet discovered of magnetic REEs (“MREE”) such as “heavy” REEs Terbium and Dysprosium, as well as lighter REEs such as Neodymium and Praseodymium. Initial estimates are that approximately 28% of deposit concentrations may be in the form of MREEs.

NETL analysis shows that core samples from the Brook Mine represent highly promising, world-class MREE and HREE accumulations. These deposits contain these valuable REEs on par with conventional REE deposits, but with much less of the low-value lanthanum and cerium that must be removed by separations. Based on this data, the Brook Mine could rank among the more promising deposits on a worldwide basis, including Chinese HREE deposits.

A copy of Weir International’s Exploration Target report and a shareholder letter on the discovery from Ramaco CEO and Chairman Randall Atkins can be found at www.ramacoresources.com. Exhibits from the report are also included in this release.

There is currently only one active mine for magnetic REEs in the United States, located near the Mojave Desert in California. Magnetic REE materials are used in electric vehicle motors, advanced military technology, medical devices, and much more.

The Brook Mine comprises over 15,800 acres outside of Sheridan, Wyoming, one of the largest privately controlled mineral reserves in the Western United States. Roughly 4,500 acres were permitted for mining in 2020, which is where the initial assessment program has been conducted. Mining at the Brook Mine could begin as early as the fourth quarter of 2023, following additional mining development and assessment. The additional 11,300 acres will be also assessed and could provide opportunity to increase the scale of the overall development in the future.

China currently produces the vast majority of REEs, which are increasingly important in defense, industrial, and consumer technologies. Congress and the Department of Energy have earmarked billions of dollars toward this goal, and a bipartisan bill introduced earlier this year would establish tax credits to support the production of magnetic REEs like those found at the Brook Mine.

The majority of REE deposits outside of China are associated with “conventional” mines and found in igneous hard rock deposits, which makes them both difficult and expensive to mine and process. In contrast, the REEs from the Brook Mine are characterized as “unconventional” because they are largely found in clay strata located above and below the coal seams themselves. It is expected they can be mined using normal surface mining techniques and processed in a more economic and environmental manner than conventional REE mines.

“The coal seams can contain significant quantity of REEs, making the coal seams an attractive source for these valuable minerals on an ash-basis,” said a report from Weir International. “The REEs are believed to have been incorporated into the coal during its formation and are found in association with clay minerals and organic matter in the coal seams. Interburden between the coal seams also contain elevated levels of REEs, primarily in clays, carbonaceous clays and siltstones and not necessarily associated to the coal seams.… Ramaco’s sample collection, preparation, security, and testing protocols are well documented and suffice to provide consistent, reliable, and verifiable data.”

Ramaco plans to analyze the appropriate mining, processing and mineral development plan for the REEs, along with a comprehensive economic analysis. Ramaco’s Board of Directors has authorized continued assessment of this opportunity, and additional testing results will be released periodically.

“We view this as an exciting and perhaps transformative new direction for our company,” said Ramaco CEO and Chairman Randall Atkins. “We will approach the potential to develop critical minerals with the same conservative capital expenditure and development discipline that we have applied to our core metallurgical coal business. We are also well positioned to allocate initial capital to begin a step-by-step development program.

“We of course recognize that any new mine project, especially one involving emerging technology, is fraught with uncertainty,” said Atkins. “There is much work to do, before we can determine the commercial feasibility of REE extraction at the Brook Mine. But we will evaluate the overall business proposition of developing these REE critical minerals to their highest value proposition to Ramaco, and frankly also to the country.”

“If additional diligence continues to confirm the opportunity, then Ramaco can expand its national footprint into becoming both a low-cost supplier of strategic REE critical materials from Wyoming, as well as continuing as a producer of metallurgical coal in Central Appalachia,” said Atkins. “We will supply periodic updates as this REE project unfolds.”

Source: Company Press Release