Alaska gov nominates Bokan REE as priority

North of 60 Mining News – September 1, 2019


Last updated 9/26/2020 at 5:29am

Ucore Rare Metals Inc.

Bokan Mountain, the site of Ucore Rare Metals' rare earth element deposit on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska, looms above the American flag flying over Kendrick Bay.

Ucore Rare Metals Inc. Aug. 29 reported that Alaska Gov. Michael Dunleavy has asked the White House to designate Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth project as a high priority infrastructure project, which would expedite the permitting process for this potential critical metals mine in Southeast Alaska.

"The state of Alaska understands the critical nature of a secure supply chain for rare earth minerals in the United States. We are seeking your support to have this Alaskan rare earth deposit deemed a high priority infrastructure project and recognize this designation will allow for a more efficient permitting process to ensure the resource is available for development in a reasonable time-frame," Dunleavy penned in an Aug. 9 letter to Council of Environmental Quality Chair Mary Neumayr.

Gov. Dunleavy made this nomination under "Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects", which was signed by President Donald Trump shortly after he took office in 2017.

Under the executive order, Neumayr has until Sept. 9 to decide whether Bokan qualifies as a "high priority" infrastructure project. If so, this Alaskan rare earth project will be given highest priority for expedited review and approvals of the permits needed for development.

"A High Priority Infrastructure Project designation will greatly assist in our planned permitting related activities for the Bokan project," said Ucore Rare Metals COO Mike Schrider. "Our fundamental objective is to establish the Bokan-Dotson Ridge resource as a shovel-ready critical mineral reserve for the rapidly expanding domestic technology and defense industry sectors that are dependent on rare earth metals."

The Dotson Ridge deposit at Bokan Mountain hosts 4.79 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 0.6 percent (63.54 million pounds) total rare earth oxides.

Most rare earths deposits contain some mixture of all the elements considered rare earths, which includes 15 lanthanides – the group of elements in their own row at the bottom of the periodic table –along with scandium and yttrium – a pair of elements that are commonly found in REE deposits and have similar characteristics.

Roughly 40 percent of the rare earths in the Dotson Ridge deposit are heavy REEs, which tend to be less abundant and more valuable.

"The Bokan-Dotson Ridge REE site is an excellent resource to support U.S. REE supply chain needs," said Jeff Green, president of J.A. Green & Company, a Washington DC-based government relations firm with specialized knowledge of defense contracting. "With its unique mineralization, especially for the heavy rare earths, it has high potential value in any effort to rebuild a domestic REE supply chain to meet both commercial and military requirements."

Jim Nista; Creative Commons 3.0

A panoramic view of Ketchikan, a port town toward the southern end of the Southeast Alaska Panhandle. Ucore Rare Metals has acquired property on the outskirts of Ketchikan for the development of a rare earths separation facility.

A 2012 preliminary economic assessment outlines an underground mine at Bokan that is forecast to produce 2,500 tons of rare earth oxides per year during the first five years of full production; including an annual output of 105 tons of dysprosium oxide, 15 tons of terbium oxide, and 568 tons of yttrium oxide.

Ucore also has plans to develop a rare earth separation facility called the Strategic Metals Complex (SMC) near Ketchikan, a port town about 35 miles from Bokan Mountain.

"The support from Governor Dunleavy and his staff underscores the importance of immediately developing a domestic rare earth element natural resource project and separation plant," said Ucore Rare Metals President and CEO Jim McKenzie. "This nomination could not come at a better time considering our strategic planning related to the development of the Bokan mine and its Alaska SMC separation plant to contribute to the forthcoming and necessary re-establishment of a U.S. rare earth supply chain, independent of China."


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