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Ucore talks rare earths with US senators

 

Last updated 8/30/2019 at 3:13am

Defense Production Act rare earths REE Ketchikan Alaska

Ucore Rare Metals Inc.

A float plane lands on Kendrick Bay at Ucore Rare Metals' Bokan Mountain rare earths project on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.

Ucore Rare Metals Inc. Aug. 22 announce that that it met with senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in separate visits to Ketchikan, Alaska, to discuss Ucore's promise as a secure domestic supply source for rare earth elements crucial to U.S. defense, manufacturing, and industrial base needs.

"We're delighted to be working with two influential federal senators, both of whom recognize the importance of secure domestic supply chains for critical materials," said Randy Johnson, a member of the Ucore Rare Metals advisory board. "Senator Murkowski has established a long record of interest in critical materials legislation, most recently sponsoring the bipartisan American Mineral Security Act, along with Senator Sullivan, and is actively engaged in the development of a critical REE supply chain in Alaska. We're also thrilled that Senator Sullivan, a decorated member of the U.S. Marine Corps and an active member of the Armed Services Committee, expressed an interest in Ucore's activities, especially with the Defense Production Act Title 3 program opportunities."

Title 3 of the Defense Production Act allows a U.S. President to incentivize the domestic industrial base with the goal of expanding the production and supply of critical materials and goods. Authorized incentives include loans, loan guarantees, direct purchases and purchase commitments, and the authority to procure and install equipment in private industrial facilities.

In July, President Donald Trump made an official determination that domestic production, separation and manufacturing of rare earths is "essential to the national defense" of the U.S.

In late June, the U.S. Air Force sent out requests for information asking the mining sector to provide plans for developing rare earth element mines and processing facilities in the U.S. These memos also queried manufacturers about their requirements for this group of 17 essential elements.

Ucore was among the companies that responded to this query under Defense Production Act Title 3.

The company said it proposed the advancement of a mine and rare earth processing and separation plant at its Bokan Mountain project in Southeast Alaska.

Located on Prince of Wales Island, about 35 miles northwest of Ketchikan, the Dotson Ridge deposit at Bokan Mountain hosts 79 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 0.6 percent (63.54 million pounds) total rare earth oxides.

While not particularly high-grade, roughly 40 percent of the rare earths at Dotson Ridge are classified as heavy REEs, a subset of the suite of rare earths that tend to be less common and more valuable.

Ucore completed a preliminary economic assessment in 2012 that outlines an underground mine at Bokan Mountain envisioned to produce 2,500 tons of rare earth oxides per year during the first five years of full production.

"The Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth project shows promise in delivering the mineral resources that the Department of Defense needs immediately and needs most," said Ucore Rare Metals President and CEO Jim McKenzie. "These include heavy REE such as dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium, metals critically required by the U.S. DOD, which Ucore has at a higher grade than any other NI 43-101-compliant resource on U.S. soil. We'd like to thank senators Murkowski and Sullivan for taking such an active interest in the Bokan project and look forward to working with both them and U.S. DOD decision-makers to make it a reality."

As part of its plans to develop a mine at Bokan Mountain, Ucore has been advancing plans to establish a rare earth elements processing facility in Ketchikan that involves the use of molecular recognition technology, a highly selective process for isolating an element or group of elements from solution.

Using a solution derived from Ucore's Bokan Mountain project in Southeast Alaska, IBC Advanced Technologies Inc. and Ucore demonstrated that this technology can efficiently pull out individual high-purity rare earth elements. This is considered a significant advancement in the separation of REEs, considering how tightly connected these elements are and the environmental concerns over the traditional methods of separating them.

After proving this technology works at the pilot plant scale and is ready to be scaled up to commercial facility, however, the two companies ended up on opposite sides of a legal battle over Ucore's bid to buy IBC. The court case has yet to be resolved.

Defense Production Act rare earths REE Ketchikan Alaska

Ucore Rare Metals Inc.

This pilot plant, known as SuperLig One, demonstrated that molecular recognition technology could be used to separate tightly interlocked rare earths into individual high-purity elements.

Ucore has purchased a parcel of land outside of Ketchikan to build its planned REE separation facility and hopes to continue advancing the design and permitting of the plant once the legal dispute is resolved.

"We continue to believe that Alaska, and in particular, Bokan Mountain, is an essential component of any solution to mitigate America's escalating foreign dependence for rare earth elements," said Ucore Rare Metals Chairman Pat Ryan. "Ucore is working actively with the state of Alaska, the Alaskan congressional delegation, and the Department of Defense to unlock the value of the Bokan project for the emerging North American REE supply chain. This includes the advancement of shovel ready initiatives associated with final engineering and permitting for the mine and continued progress of the first physical component of the Bokan project – the individual rare earth elements processing and separation plant."

–SHANE LASLEY

 

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