Does a Sierra Blanca Mountain Contain $8 Billion Worth of Rare Earth Minerals?
The average income per-capita in Hudspeth County is just under $10,000 a year. That’s $7.99999 billion less than Anthony Marchese, board chairman for the Texas Rare Earth Resources Corporation, believes lives in one of the desolate West Texas area’s mountains, if the rare earth minerals found within can be properly mined. According to the El Paso Times, Marchese and a pair of UTEP geology professors are currently in the middle of a quest to “put Hudspeth County on the map”—and to raise a mere $20 million in order to complete a study to verify their beliefs.
The company this month released an updated economic assessment, which estimated Round Top could produce about $8 billion worth of rare earth minerals over a 20-year mine life. It would cost almost $293 million to build the mining facility and go into production, the assessment concluded.
The company has spent more than four years and about $20 million so far in developing its plans, Marchese reported.
It’s now trying to raise about $20 million, which could be done by attracting a partner, Marchese said. It needs about $13 million to do a year-long feasibility study. The goal is to have the mine operating in three years, Marchese said.
It’s interesting to see the daily paper of a major metropolitan area publish what’s basically an “open for investment” ad for a fledgling mining company, but if Texas Rare Earth Resources is on to something, there’s no question that it would definitely change the culture of Hudspeth County—whose county seat, Sierra Blanca, is so far off-the-map that touring musicians’ bus drivers have a bad habit of passing through the town and getting busted for drug possession at the Border Patrol checkpoint. The minerals in question are currently produced almost exclusively in China and used for a variety of technological applications (which may include lasers, camera lenses, fiber optic cables, etc.). There are 18 hard rare earth minerals in existence and Marchese believes ten of them, including uranium, may be in the mountain.
Sierra Blanca has long struggled to find an industry since the diminishment of the railroads, which had supported the town in the early part of the 20th century. Currently, the bulk of the town’s employment comes from the Border Patrol checkpoint, but most of the staff commutes in from El Paso, about 90 miles west, and the town has continued to struggle since its sewage dump, which housed the “bio-solids” of millions of New Yorkers, closed in 2001. In 1998, area leaders tried, and failed, to recruit a nuclear waste dump to the area, after outcry from environmentalists on both sides of the border.
All of which is to say that, if there really is gold (or Uranium, Lanthanum, Samarium, etc.) in them thar hills, you can’t blame the people of Hudspeth County for being excited about that prospect. At the very least, it’d be a refreshing change to see the region develop an industry that involves taking valuable things and bringing them to the rest of the world, as opposed to serving as a dumping ground for the things that the rest of the world doesn’t want.