American Rare Earths (ASX: ARR) reports that the company’s wholly owned US subsidiary Western Rare Earths (WRE) will supply feedstock to researchers seeking funding from DARPA, demonstrating the strategic importance of rare earths to the US domestic supply chain.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) formulated the Environmental Microbes as a Bio-Engineering Resource (EMBER) program, encouraging US scientists to engineer a new REE supply chain by utilising bioengineering or ‘biomining’ approaches. This move is considered to be a critical step on the path to reduce the United States’ dependence on supply from China.
“Timely engagement with US Government programs has put the company in the mix as a valued potential provider of REE feedstock to the emerging US REE domestic supply chain”
The company reports that WRE has already provided REE supply to three research teams, including researchers from US national laboratories and elite American “Research One” universities applying to the EMBER program.
The feedstock is sourced from the ARR’s La Paz project in Arizona, along with the Holleck Creek project in Wyoming. The company notes that feedstocks from Arizona and Wyoming are unique in that they are both non-radioactive, and provide access to almost all 17 REE metals in a single source, making it one of the very few mineral deposit feedstocks that qualify for use in the program.
Speaking on the initiative, American Rare Earths Managing Director Keith Middleton said: “We are delighted by these potential opportunities cultivated by our US-based Leadership Team. Having the domestic team in place early in our journey enabled relationships with key US REE researchers in universities and the national labs to be developed. Timely engagement with US Government programs has put the company in the mix as a valued potential provider of REE feedstock to the emerging US REE domestic supply chain which has become a critical objective of successive US administrations.
We believe that the EMBER program’s focus on a strategy for REEs using domestic sources is an interesting indicator. We are not aware of a competitor that is supplying multiple teams to this program. This provides us with a point of difference, and we like our chances of potentially more than one team being awarded significant funding for their research using our mineralised ore.”
Rare earths are a group of 17 metals that are critical components to many Department of Defense systems including lasers, precision-guided weapons, fuel cells, magnets for motors, and other devices.
Dr. Linda Chrisey, EMBER Program Manager stated that the program “will aim to fill a critical DoD supply chain gap”. The program has attracted dozens of world-class researchers working to revolutionise an 80-year-old industry.