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State leaders announce rare earth metal, magnet manufacturing facility to be built in Stillwater

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Gov. Kevin Stitt announces deal with USA Rare Earth on June 9, 2022

Gov. Kevin Stitt held a press conference Thursday to announce a metal and magnets manufacturing facility operated by USA Rare Earth will be built in Stillwater.

CEO of the company Thayer Smith said he was impressed by the ease with which he will be able to set up shop in the state.

“It was absolutely refreshing to come to the state to see how aligned you are, how you work seamlessly from the state, to the city, and also the federal level. It’s unusual,” said Smith.

Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Kenneth Wagner said the facility that will produce magnets for everyday electronic devices is the first of its kind in the nation, and he doesn’t know what environmental permits are needed.

“We want that permitting process to be the right process. We’re not trying to cut corners. We’re in fact trying to make the permits as protective within the Clear Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or whatever,” said Wagner.

A 2019 article from The Los Angeles Times says the mining and processing of rare earth metals has caused environmental devastation in China.

For Stitt, it's about welcoming business with open arms.

“The way that our state has pro-business policies, really I think that work with these companies and they realize that we’re not gonna be attacking an industry. We’re always going to be supportive,” said Stitt.

The Stillwater News Press reports the city of Stillwater approved a $7 million incentive for USA Rare Earth in return for jobs and continued investment.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.