Wyoming news briefs for May 20


Riverton woman dies in motorcycle crash

RIVERTON – A Riverton woman died amid a motorcycle crash Saturday, when her motorcycle struck the wall of Wind River Canyon on Highway 20 north of Shoshoni. 

Heather Weber, 34, was driving northbound on the highway, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol fatality crash summary. The report states that she “failed to negotiate a left hand curve in the roadway.” 

Her motorcycle exited the roadway to the right, striking the side of the canyon wall, which caused Weber to be separated from her vehicle. 

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and WHP were called to the scene at 12:18 p.m. Saturday. The Fremont County Coroner’s Office and American Medical Response ambulance also were called to respond. 

Conditions were clear and dry that day. WHP lists possible contributing factors as speed and driver inattention. 

No other vehicles or individuals were involved, WHP wrote. 

Weber was not wearing a helmet.


Upton confirmed as RER test plant location 

SUNDANCE – Rare Element Resources (RER) confirmed this week that the next stage of development for its planned rare earth mine will take place in Upton. 

This is the location originally chosen for the company’s full-scale separation activities once the mine was up and running. 

The demonstration plant will further test the company’s patented rare earth separation and processing and will use funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). 

“A major decision has been made to choose Upton as the site for this unique facility, which will be the first of its scale in America to produce commercial-grade neodymium/ praseodymium (NdPr) rare earth high-purity oxide for high-strength permanent magnets,” said George Byers, RER. “The Upton plant will help us further optimize our innovative, patented separation process. Our ability to produce extremely high-purity, separated rare earth oxides involves significantly fewer steps plus attendant environmental benefits and lower operating and capital costs compared with current technologies employed elsewhere in the world.” 

The DoE announced in January that it had selected RER and its partner, General Atomics and affiliate Synchron, to receive an award of $21,989,530 to construct this demo plant. The plant is expected to cost around $35-40 million. 

“Since then [we] have been finalizing details of the pre-award negotiations,” said Byers. 

Funding is expected within the next six to eight weeks, according to Byers, and construction of the demonstration plant is then set to be complete within 18 to 24 months. 


Horses bring top dollar at Cody sale

CODY — L.K. Smokin Chex, a 5-year-old bay gelding, stole the show at a lively Cody Horse sale on May 8.

The horse, brought to town by Turner Performance Horses, sold for $110,000, the highlight in a successful auction that turned downtown Cody into a sea of boots, cowboy hats, neighs and whinnies.

It came a year after the auction was done wholly online due to COVID-19. This time it was the best of both worlds, with in-person bidding alongside webcasting, phone and internet bidding that organizers said were great additions.

“We did have an excellent horse sale,” organizer Kay Clark said. “It was very good.”

Not only did L.K. Smokin Chex fetch more than a horse ever has – Turner Performance Horses has sold their high-caliber horses in other sales for similar amounts – but Clark said it was a popular event whether people were looking to buy or not.

“We had a huge number of folks come and we always do, but maybe more this year,” she said. “Everybody likes what’s going on.”

Clark said people came from California and a bunch from the East Coast to find horses they couldn’t find back home.

It paid off for those who came to Cody and went to Jake Clark’s Mule Days Arena in Ralston to show off and sell their horses. 

Besides L.K. Smokin Chex, Caliber, a 5-year-old blue roan gelding, went for $58,000. Saddle horses averaged $20,393 and colts $2,033.


Unidentified military headstones discovered near Beulah

SUNDANCE — A curious discovery was recently made under the sign on top of the hill next to Beulah. 

Two motorcyclists came across a pile of old military tombstones, with no indication as to where they may have originated. 

“There were eight military tombstones piled up underneath that thing,” said Vernon Davis of the Society of Black Hills Pioneers. 

The stones do not appear to have come from any of the local cemeteries, and most of the names are no longer legible. At this time, it is difficult to say how they made the journey from their original resting site to Beulah. 

“But they came from somewhere,” Davis said. “Whether they were stolen or not, I don’t know.” 

Theft is not the only potential explanation, and may not even be the most likely. “Sometimes, when they get old, they take those tombstones and throw them away or give them to people. That might be what was going on here, but we don’t know that yet,” Davis explained. 

Sheriff Jeff Hodge said the next steps will involve the assistance of the National Cemetery. 

“We have them in our custody, and National Cemetery is going to look into it and retrieve them for proper disposal,” he said. 

In the meantime, anyone who has information as to the origin of the headstones or how they came to be present in Beulah is urged to report it to the Crook County Sheriff’s Office or contact Davis at 307-643-1442. 

The Society of the Black Hills offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person who desecrated a cemetery.