ELK CREEK, Neb. — In this rural part of Nebraska, county-board agendas include moratoriums on solar farms and some residents scowl when they pass the handful of wind farms that have sprouted. But the idea of a new mine that could help power the transition to renewable energy has received broad support.
The tenor of these quiet flatlands, where deer bounce across gravel roads and neon sunsets scream across the long horizon, would change dramatically if mining for metals like niobium, scandium, titanium and rare earths begins.
But many people here think Southeast Nebraska, dotted with dying downtowns and aging residents, could play a small part in helping to solve a full-blown geopolitical crisis that Doc Evans, a Johnson County commissioner, summed up like this: “The trouble with China.”
Mr. Evans and numerous others welcome the digging that a company called NioCorp wants to begin because they feel it’s their patriotic duty. For too long, they said, the United States has depended on other countries for metals and minerals the nation could find at home, if only someone were willing to spend the money and effort to retrieve them.