USFS okays Bokan rare earths exploration
Ucore plans 2022 sampling ahead of feasibility-level studies North of 60 Mining News – November 19, 2021
Last updated 12/2/2021 at 2:12pm
Ucore Rare Metals Inc. Nov. 17 announced that the United States Forest Service has issued a one-year authorization for trenching and bulk sampling at the Bokan Mountain rare earths project in Southeast Alaska.
Located on Prince of Wales Island, the Dotson Ridge deposit at Ucore's Bokan Mountain project hosts 4.79 million metric tons of indicated resource containing 31,722 metric tons of total rare earth oxides – 14 lanthanide elements, yttrium, and scandium – plus 1.05 metric tons of inferred resource with 6,979 metric tons of total rare earth oxides.
In addition to rare earths, this Southeast Alaska deposit hosts appreciable amounts of niobium, zirconium, beryllium, hafnium, titanium dioxide, and vanadium – all considered critical to the U.S.
In May, Ucore announced a planned C$400,000 program to upgrade the heavy rare earths enriched resource at Dotson Ridge.
The program approved by USFS includes the collection of 50 channel samples along a 2,000-meter stretch of exposed outcrop at Dotson Ridge and the collection of 50 metric tons of bulk sample material for pilot-scale metallurgical recovery methods at SGS Canada's Lakefield facility.
In preparation for advancing Bokan to feasibility level studies, this work is expected to elevate roughly 17-20% of the current indicated and inferred mineral resource to the measured resource category. Roughly 90% of the new measured resource is coming from the indicated category and the balance from inferred.
Ucore had originally planned to carry out the Bokan sampling this year but has decided to wait until next summer to carry out the fully permitted program.
In anticipation of USFS authorization, Ucore Rare Metals COO Mike Schrider and Aurora Geosciences Alaska General Manager Jim Robinson carried out mapping at Bokan in September to locate two bulk sample areas and to coordinate next summer's field activities.
The 2022 sampling program is expected to position Ucore in completing a prefeasibility and feasibility study for developing a mine at Bokan in the near future as rare earths markets continue to heat up as the global adoption of electric vehicles push up demand for these metals.
Under its Alaska2023 development plan, Ucore intends to begin delivering rare earths to global markets in a little over two years.
Initial production, however, will not come from Bokan. Instead, these REEs are expected to be delivered from the planned Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, a commercial-scale rare earths separation and purification plant to be built near the port town of Ketchikan about 35 miles to the east.
This plant would utilize RapidSX rare earths and critical minerals separation technology developed by Innovation Metals Corp., a company Ucore acquired last year.
"While we have the long-term development of the Bokan Mountain complex in our sights, we are also committed to the near-term development of a comprehensive US-centric rare earth element supply chain," said Schrider. "In our view, this starts with the development of the environmentally sound and technologically efficient Alaska Strategic Metals Complex rare earth processing facility based on RapidSX separation technology. And the concurrent development of the accompanying infrastructure required to support the upstream and downstream elements of this emerging supply chain through the association of key industry suppliers, partners, and customers."
Initial feedstock for Alaska Strategic Metals Complex would come from third-party sources.
In October, Ucore announced that it had cut a preliminary deal with Vital Metals Ltd. for initial supplies of rare earth feedstock from Nechalacho, a new REE mine in Northwest Territories.
Further details on Ucore's agreement with vital can be read at can be read at A North of 60 rare earths supply chain in the October 29, 2021 edition of North of 60 Mining News.
After getting this separation facility churning out rare earths 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.
"The long-term development of Bokan is a fundamental tenet of our Alaska 2023 Plan, and Ucore is committed to the establishment of a heavy rare earth element mineral reserve and eventual mine at the Bokan-Dotson Ridge project," Shrider said.
Ucore also plans to resume exploring the upside potential at the Bokan Mountain Complex.
The company says Dotson Ridge, which remains open along strike and at depth, is only one of nine historical zones of REE mineralization on the larger Bokan property.
After the Summer 2022 fieldwork is completed, Ucore intends to carry out additional exploration concurrently with prospective mine development activities.