US Critical Materials makes gallium discovery at Sheep Creek in Montana

Gallium discovered at Sheeps Creek in Montana. Credit: US Critical Materials.

US Critical Materials said on Thursday it has discovered a “strategically significant” deposit of high-grade gallium on its 6,700 acres of claims at its flagship Sheep Creek property in southwest Montana.

The US is 100% dependent on imported gallium, which is critical for national defense, primarily from China. Gallium is used for semiconductors, 5G technology, smartphones, satellite systems, critical photonics technologies and military radar systems. The 2022 list of critical minerals identifies gallium as a US supply risk.

The Pentagon has already announced plans to issue a first-time contract to US or Canadian companies to recover gallium after China curbed exports last year.

In December 2023, US Critical Materials signed an agreement with Idaho National Laboratories to develop new rare earth processing methods, including gallium separation.

Last year, the Sheep Creek property reported grades that exceeded any other domestic rare earth resource. As part of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Mapping Resource Initiative, the USGS, in cooperation with the Montana Bureau of Mines, announced last April it is conducting an aeromagnetic and aero-radiometric survey at Sheep Creek.

The company said it believes the technologies developed under this cooperative research and development agreement could potentially provide environmentally responsible mining and processing  to mitigate environmental concerns.

US Critical Materials president James Hedrick is a 29-year former USGS and Bureau of Mines rare earth commodity specialist.

“Not only is our gallium high grade, but we are also confident that we will be able to create a separation process that will be environmentally respectful. US Critical Materials’ prime gallium claims average over 300 ppm and go as high as 1,370 ppm,” Hendrick said in a statement, adding that gallium can be separated profitably at 50 ppm.

“US Critical Materials looks forward to being the primary gallium producer in the United States,” he said.