Realising the American Rare Earths dream

Developing an exploration project up to production is a daunting and expensive task that carries high risks and can often take more than a decade to achieve.

American Rare Earths (ASX:ARR), however, believes it can reach production at its flagship Halleck Creek Project in Wyoming as early as 2026.

To be clear, much of the groundwork has already been laid at Halleck Creek: American Rare Earths has reported a 1.43-billion-tonne JORC-compliant mineral resource for the project, touting 4.73 million tonnes of contained Total Rare Earth Oxides (TREO), including high-value neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr) oxides. 

But back in July, the company made a notable step-change from exploration to development with the appointment of Donald Swartz, who came from a background in coal, as its new CEO. 

Along with Swartz came new American Rare Earths Chief Financial Officer Jose Rico — who came from Resource Capital Funds — and other management experts from various sectors. Interestingly, one factor linked the new American Rare Earths leadership appointments: a notable lack of expertise in geology. 

Speaking to, Swartz says this was an intentional move on behalf of the board.

“Typically, with exploration companies, you have a geologist, and it’s drill holes, drill holes, drill holes, and then drill some more holes.

This is that pivot to project development, because we have something here with Halleck Creek.”

“This is that pivot to project development”

With Swartz at the helm, American Rare Earths is targeting the rapid development of Halleck Creek as it fights for pole position in the race to secure a local supply of rare earths in the US. 

It could be expensive work, but Swartz says the company has sufficient cash in the bank for the time being. 

“We’re not in a position that we need to raise cash at the moment. We’re in pretty good shape. 

But we’ll probably raise cash next year.” 

A Field of Dreams

Be it serendipity, careful planning, or a mixture of both, Swartz says the company is in a position to bring Halleck Creek to rare earths development in ‘as early as 2 to 3 years’. 

The strategy, he says, is to secure a small supply of rare earths into the market and use that supply as leverage to develop the project further. 

This is because the resource at Halleck Creek — keeping in mind that only 25% of the project has thus far been drilled — holds one million tonnes of NdPr equivalent; a huge chunk of rare earths compared to the current global market. 

The market for this stuff [rare earths] is not very big. There’s only 60,000 tonnes in the worldwide market at the moment.”

As such, Swartz does not believe the company needs to spend billions of dollars on a ‘grandiose’ rare earths project; small and steady will be enough to win the race. 

I think you just build it small, modular, on the state section, and then you prove that you can make it. And then the market will come.

It’s like that Field of Dreams movie from when I was a kid: ‘If you build it, they will come’. 

If you build one Lego block and then you grow it, that’s the fastest path.”

“It’s like that Field of Dreams movie from when I was a kid: ‘If you build it, they will come’.”

He believes the first company to secure a local US supply of rare earths — even a small one — will have already won the race.

“That’s all the upside you can capture, because there’s not room for five projects or ten projects.”

Gleaning from neighbouring success

Developing an exploration project is not just about securing the funds and infrastructure to extract important metals: with every potential mining project in a developed nation comes a myriad of government red tape and a rigorous permitting process.

American Rare Earths has already started its permitting process for Halleck Creek, and Swartz tells this news service he believes the company can tick all the right boxes ‘very quickly’, thanks to some help — albeit perhaps indirectly — from Nasdaq-listed US Gold Corp (NASDAQ:USAU) and its CK Gold Mine, also in Wyoming.

“[US Gold] has the same kind of pit shell and what we would look to do. And the state is about to grant them their permit. 

So we can kind of shortcut — ride the piggyback off of that knowledge of looking at their application, everything they had to do, the way they’re doing their tailings, and just mirror it off that.” 

Underpinning Swartz’s confidence in the short permitting and development path for Halleck Creek is the company’s success in metallurgical testwork.

For reference, rare earths developers typically prefer ionic clay deposits because they’re cheaper and quicker to leach, process, and extract compared to hard rock deposits

Yet, Swartz insists that American Rare Earths has been somewhat ‘miscategorised’ as a hard rock deposit.

He says while Halleck Creek is not strictly an ionic clay deposit, it’s not quite hard-rock either. 

“We’ve got this really unique deposit — unique in a good way. It’s a weathered granite, so it’s an igneous extrusion, and it’s a big homogenous deposit.

We don’t really fall into either basket.”

The bottom line, according to Swartz, is that the rare earths from Halleck Creek have been proven cost-effective to mine and sort.

“We kind of have this best-of-both-worlds thing, where it’s really high-grade in comparison to clay, but everyone’s calling it a hard rock.” 

“We kind of have this best-of-both-worlds thing, where it’s really high-grade in comparison to clay, but everyone’s calling it a hard rock.” 

What’s next for American Rare Earths?

While a fast-tracked production plan for Halleck Creek is part of Swartz’s dream for the company, there’s a lot that needs to happen before this can become a reality.

The company plans to release a scoping study for the project in the first quarter of 2024, and it’s preparing to submit an application for a test mine permit to the State of Wyoming. 

This means alongside further ongoing drilling and exploration, the company needs to complete this test mine and piloting work to de-risk the project before pursuing a full state permit for the Halleck Creek project. 

It’s a bold dream for Swartz and American Rare Earths, and only time will tell if the company will hit a home run with Halleck Creek or strike out somewhere along the way. 

Write to Joshua Smith at

Images: American Rare Earths
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Written By Joshua Smith
Joshua Smith has years of experience in the media sector, having worked as a markets reporter, features writer, and editor since completing a Communications and Journalism degree and a Creative Writing degree. Josh is an avid board game fan and a self-professed coffee snob.