Ucore strengthens support for Alaska SMC
AIDEA agrees to consider investment in REE processing plant North of 60 Mining News – January 22, 2021
Last updated 1/28/2021 at 3:15pm
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the formalization of a preliminary due-diligence process for a potential US$3 million to US$5 million investment for the development and commercial-scale operation of the rare earths separation facility Ucore Rare Metals Inc. plans to build near the Southeast Alaska port town of Ketchikan.
Development of this Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, or Alaska SMC, is the first step toward Ucore's larger goal of developing a mine at Bokan Mountain, a rare earth elements mine project about 35 miles away from Ketchikan.
The Alaska SMC is a planned rare earths separation and processing facility that would initially process mixed rare earth concentrates from United States-allied suppliers into commercial purity REE oxides, specifically for REE permanent-magnet applications. This plant would utilize RapidSX rare earths and critical minerals separation technology developed by Innovation Metals Corp., a company Ucore acquired last year.
Alaska SMC is the first step of Alaska2023, a business plan unveiled by Ucore earlier this month that envisions the start of rare earths production in Alaska in three years. After getting this separation facility churning out rare earth oxides from feedstock supplied by others, the company plans to develop a mine at its Bokan Mountain REE and critical minerals project on Prince of Wales Island.
According to a calculation completed in 2019, the Dotson Ridge deposit at Bokan hosts 4.79 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 0.6% (31,722 metric tons) rare earth oxides, 460 parts per million (2,205 metric tons) niobium; 1,880 ppm (9,001 metric tons) zirconium; 48 ppm (231 metric tons) beryllium; 37 ppm (178 metric tons) hafnium; 0.37% (17,715 metric tons) titanium dioxide; and 97 ppm (464 metric tons) vanadium.
In addition, Dotson Ridge hosts 1.05 metric tons of inferred resource averaging 0.6% (6,979 metric tons) total rare earth oxides; 470 ppm (493 metric tons) niobium; 1,897 ppm (1,992 metric tons) zirconium; 46 ppm (48 metric tons) beryllium; 35 ppm (37 metric tons) hafnium; 0.44% (4,652 metric tons) titanium dioxide; and 112 ppm (118 metric tons) vanadium.
Earlier this month, senior management from Ucore and Innovation Metals presented an overview of the Alaska SMC project to the board of AIDEA, which was established by the Alaska Legislature in 1967 to advance economic growth and diversification in the state by providing various means of financing and investment.
In 2014, the Alaska Legislature authorized AIDEA to invest up to US$145 million to help finance the development of a mine at Bokan Mountain and Alaska SMC.
Following Ucore's presentation, the AIDEA board unanimously authorized a cost reimbursement agreement for activities related to the development and operation of the Alaska SMC. The next steps are to formalize the due-diligence process with an AIDEA-retained independent consultant and to proceed with the AIDEA review process through second quarter of this year.
"Ucore is very appreciative of the efforts by the AIDEA Board and staff as we pursue a potential co-development partnership which will greatly benefit the State of Alaska and contribute to critical-metals independence for the United States," said Ucore Rare Metals COO Mike Schrider. "Responsible economic resource development is the common goal of both AIDEA and Ucore, and the Alaska SMC facility is the gateway component to establishing environmentally sound, cost-efficient rare earth element supply chain development and commercialization in Southeast Alaska."
Detailed technology, feedstock and business updates will follow in the coming weeks as Ucore and IMC continue to execute their respective business plans toward potential revenue streams as the prices of key REEs used in permanent-magnet materials continue to rise significantly.
"Ucore is excited by the significant advancements with our team, alliances and technology that transitioned the company in 2020 and is now strategically positioned in 2021 to leverage our tremendous resources and technical know-how with the singular goal of achieving near-term and sustainable revenue for the company," said Ucore Chairman and interim CEO Pat Ryan. "Is Ucore up for the challenge? Just watch us."