Oklahoma lands nation's first rare earth metal and manufacturing facility

PROMO 64J1 Map - Oklahoma State Map - iStock - klenger
Published Saturday, June 11, 2022
by Merrilee Gasser | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) - A newly announced rare earth metal and manufacturing facility will create more than 100 new jobs and increase Oklahoma's domestic energy production, officials said. 

USA Rare Earth LLC selected Stillwater to locate the first rare earth metal and manufacturing facility in the nation, Governor Kevin Stitt said. The company plans to invest more than $100 million in developing the manufacturing facility and expects to generate over $6.6 million in wages once operational, according to Stitt's office.

The company already operates the Round Top Heavy Rare Earth, Lithium and Critical Minerals Project in Texas. Company officials say their goal is to create a US-based critical mineral supply chain that does not depend on China.

"Currently, the United States, European Union, Japan, and much of the developed world is largely reliant on China for critical rare earth element production," said Thayer Smith, president of USA Rare Earth. "Our goal with this project is to advance U.S. manufacturing capacity by establishing the first vertically integrated domestic supply chain for rare earth elements, and we are excited to be working in Oklahoma."

Once completed, the manufacturing facility will serve to convert rare earth oxides into metals, magnets and other materials which can be used for electric vehicles, wind turbines, mobile electronic devices and military hardware, according to the company.

"Oklahoma has long been on the cutting edge of energy innovation, and this project embodies the energetic, forward-thinking mentality of our state," Stitt said. "The USA Rare Earth project will help our state remain a leader in domestic energy production, further diversifying our economy while reducing U.S. dependence on foreign imports."

Initial production at the facility is expected to begin next year. State leaders say the rare earth elements are not only critical for many of Oklahoma's core economic drivers like aerospace and technology, but there are beneficial implications for national security as well.

"To increase national security, the U.S. must secure a domestic, reliable and sustainable supply of critical rare earth elements," said Ken Wagner, Secretary of Energy and Environment for the state of Oklahoma. "Oklahoma is perfectly positioned to help lead the way as the U.S. seeks energy independence and less reliance on foreign materials from countries who do not share our values."

The manufacturer will also improve the job outlook in the state, said Jennifer Springer, director of business development at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. 

"Our mission is to bring jobs, investment, and economic prosperity to the state of Oklahoma," Springer said. "By establishing more high-wage job opportunities, this project will enable Oklahoma to become a nationwide industry leader across its core economic competencies."

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