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Gillette College to host Powder River Basin carbon, rare earth elements forum

A strip mine coal pit is barely visible in this December 2019 north-facing view of the Black Thunder mine in the southern Powder River Basin. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Gillette College and the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources’ first forum for the Carbon Ore, Rare Earth, and Critical Mineral project in the Powder River Basin will take place Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

Gillette College, 300 W. Sinclair St., will host the event. It’s supposed to help form a coalition to stimulate regional economic growth and jobs in the state’s prominent coal basins, a UW news release said. The project is part of a national search for alternative domestic sources of rare earth elements, or REE, and critical minerals and expanding production of coal-based products using carbon ore. The U.S. Department of Energy funds the project.

At the event, industry leaders and stakeholders will discuss how to develop a viable domestic supply of these resources.

“If an REE industry is going to be a reality, it is only going to be achieved through collaboration and cooperation,” School of Energy Resources Project Manager Erin Phillips said. “All parts of the supply chain are essential, so the idea behind getting anything off the ground is to bring as many people into the fold as possible. That will help  break down silos and move this forward together.”

Speakers will include

  • National Energy Technology Laboratory Research and Innovation Center Science-based AI/ML Institute Technical Director Kelly Rose
  • Wyoming Energy Authority Executive Director Glen Murrell
  • Southeastern Montana Development Corp. Executive Director Jim Atchison
  • Montana Department of Commerce, Research, and Information Services Bureau Industry Development Program Manager Tom Kaiserski

Phillips said the speakers will provide “big picture” insights at the federal and state levels for community stakeholders.

Breakout sessions will cover REE supply chain topics like workforce development and training, use of waste streams for REE recovery, carbon ore to products and basin-wide infrastructure.

“We are looking forward to some robust discussions and hope that folks will come away with new ideas and partnerships,” she says. “The event is open to any interested stakeholder — be that industry, business or community level — especially those located within the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.”

The forum will showcase existing infrastructure and energy innovation facilities in and around Gillette that will help advance the CORE-CM supply chain. Participants can tour the Wyoming Innovation Center, Area 59 Facility and Gillette College.

Register for the conference and view the schedule here. For more information, email SER Outreach Director Christine Reed at christine.reed@uwyo.edu.