Company claims U.S.’s richest rare-earth deposit in Bitterroot

A Nevada mining company claims to have discovered the highest-quality deposit of rare-earth elements in the nation at the far south end of the Bitterroot National Forest. 

U.S. Critical Materials Corp. holds mining rights on 223 claims around Sheep Creek. The claims total more than 4,500 acres, or about 7 square miles, of U.S. Forest Service land, according to the company. Sheep Creek is about 13 miles south of Painted Rocks State Park and about 36 miles south of Darby, immediately north of the Montana-Idaho border. The creek drains north into the West Fork Bitterroot River. 

The company bills its Sheep Creek holdings as “one of the highest-grade light rare earth projects in the U.S.,” containing “at least 12 of the critical risk elements as defined by the U.S. Geological Survey.” Key elements at the site are neodymium and praseodymium, according to the company. Both elements have a wide variety of uses, sometimes together, including in electric vehicles and in making exceptionally strong, tiny magnets inside electronics.

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The deposit also contains lanthanum, cerium, europium, gallium, niobium, yttrium,

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