Spokane Journal of Business

What’s Happening With: former New Jersey Mining Co.

Idaho Strategic now eyes new direction in rare earth elements

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Idaho Strategic Resources Inc., the Coeur d’Alene-based mining company formerly known as New Jersey Mining Co., sees its future in rare earth elements, says John Swallow, company president and CEO.

The company took on its new name in late 2021. It was uplisted to the New York Stock Exchange nearly a year ago with its employees participating in ringing the exchange’s opening bell from within the Golden Chest Mine near Murray, Idaho, making Idaho Strategic the first company to do so from underground, Swallow claims.

In previous Journal reports, under its original name, the company’s main focus was mining gold in the Murray Gold Belt, within the Coeur d’Alene Mining District, north of the Silver Valley.

Idaho Strategic announced in December, however, that it had increased its central Idaho holdings to over 11,000 acres, which it claims makes it the second-largest rare earth element landholding company in the U.S.

Rare earth elements, with esoteric names including neodymium, monazite, cerium, praseodymium, and samarium, are used broadly in technology, energy, and aerospace sectors, including in cell phones, electric vehicles, magnets, and lasers.

Swallow says rare earth elements are vital to efforts to decarbonize the global economy, and the shift from carbon-based energy to clean electricity is going to require more mining than most people understand. Increasing domestic sources of rare earth elements will be a matter of national security, he claims.

“People don’t realize we still get 80% to 90% of rare earth elements from China,” Swallow says. “A lot of minerals come from areas where slave labor and poor working conditions are commonplace. Finding domestic sources is imperative, and even environmental groups are realizing they have some responsibility to do this. They can’t say ‘no’ to everything.”

Idaho Strategic is working with the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission program, along with the University of Idaho, Idaho National Labs, the state Center for Advanced Energy Studies, and the Idaho Geological Survey in a research program to develop environmentally friendly processes to extract rare earth elements, Swallow says.

The company also claims its Idaho holdings contain the largest known concentration of thorium resources in the nation. The U.S., China, and other countries are researching the potential for thorium to replace uranium in nuclear power plants, which theoretically would produce more electricity at lower cost and more safely than conventional plants.

“We wouldn’t be talking to people from the Department of Defense, or any of that stuff, if we were just a gold company,” he says.

Idaho Strategic is still in the exploration stages of its rare earth metals and thorium holdings, and all but a few of its 55 employees are based in North Idaho.

The company originally was incorporated as New Jersey Mining Co. in 1996. That name harkened back to a group of investors from New Jersey who, more than a century earlier, owned some of the current company’s holdings near Kellogg, Idaho.

Idaho Strategic’s new name is a better fit, Swallow says.

“We’re a legitimate Idaho corporation with operations and offices in Idaho,” he says.

While he expects rare earth elements to eventually generate the most revenue for Idaho Strategic, Swallow says the gold mining side of operations also will provide positive cash flow.

“We like gold. It’s been a store of value for a couple thousand years,” Swallow says, meaning it’s a commodity that has held in value historically.

With recent positive results from ongoing exploration in the Murray Gold Belt area, the company plans to expand its gold production to about 15,000 ounces per year.

“It won’t happen overnight, but we’re developing and putting in infrastructure,” he says.

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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