A big story in the rare earth metals world hit the press yesterday as US Rare Earth announced a contract with Boeing to employ some of their technology which, when fully implemented, could scan wide areas from airplanes or satellites and identify rare earth elements or other substances based upon their spectral fingerprints, according to TechNewsDaily. The story highlights the level of importance companies like Boeing have placed on rare earth metals and the lack of operating US rare earth metal supply chains.
Boeing has specifically examined the samples from deposits of US Rare Earth’s (USRE) Lemhi Pass in their laboratory and has identified high concentrations of individual rare earth elements. The laboratory tests are now being taken to the next step in the process as Boeing has been contracted by USRE to complete the “ground truthing of the claims in the field.
MetalMiner caught up with US Rare Earths CEO Ed Cowle yesterday and asked him to comment on the significance of Boeing’s findings on his properties. “We are very anxious to have Boeing scan our new (not previously announced) North Fork property,” Cowle said. “Our geologists believe that we have large quantities of neodymium which are used in a variety of key applications including hybrid cars, wind turbines and aircraft.
We wanted to better understand Boeing’s motivations and had a chance to put a few questions in front of Patrick Kennedy, public relations coordinator for US Rare Earths:
MM: Does Boeing intend to commercialize their technology or have they deployed it for their own internal use? Will they license it to others?
US Rare Earths: Our understanding is that Boeing does intend to commercialize this (formerly, military/government) technology. We have no knowledge of internal use in our space. However, they have indicated that they have no interest in entering the rare earth mining or exploration business.
We do not have any sort of exclusive license and it is conceivable that once we have walked through the entire process that others could follow in our footsteps.
MM: How dependent is Boeing on the specific rare earth metals owned by US Rare Earths?
US Rare Earths: They would have this information, however they have not discussed specifics of their usage with us except to say that it was significant and that 15-plus years of forward planning is not unusual for them.
MM: Was their intention to do some sort of lock-up or off take agreement or make an investment in US Rare Earths?
US Rare Earths: This was not a topic of discussion. Boeing has capabilities that would include purchasing or negotiating directly from nearly any country. They are concerned, as most citizens are, that a domestic supply base is available and that the US manufactures stay healthy and in business.
MM: What are the next steps for US Rare Earths?
US Rare Earths: USRE is going to continue to stake and file claims in our area of interest and are currently talking to potential strategic partners, interested financial entities and possible buyers. We do not have any immediate plans to go public.
We will continue to keep MetalMiner readers updated on the latest happenings within the rare earth metal field.