Defense Department Interested in Bokan's Rare Earth Elements
October 03, 2012
This announcement demonstrates the strong interest by the U.S. Government in domestic mining and production of rare earth elements to support the heavy rare earth requirements of the Department of Defense. Bokan Mountain is the richest domestic source of three heavy rare earth elements -dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium - which are critical to several advanced weapon systems, such as stealth helicopters and precision-guided weapons. Currently, all of the world's commercially-available heavy rare earth elements are produced in China. Ongoing production and export quotas have limited the availability of these materials to global markets.
This program will be managed by the Department of Defense under the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The focus will be on possible development of Bokan Mountain to meet the requirements of the Department of Defense for an ongoing supply of critical heavy Rare Earth Elements. Bokan Mountain is America's largest NI 43-101 compliant heavy rare earth resource.
Under the agreement, Ucore will provide the Department of Defense with the most up-to-date data on the Bokan project's mineralogy and proprietary bench and pilot scale Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) nanotechnology research.
"The United States does not yet have the capability to produce three of the heavy rare earths that occur naturally and in abundance in Bokan Mountain," said Jim McKenzie, President and CEO of Ucore. "The Department of Defense's investment in the Bokan deposit and Ucore's proprietary SPE technology represents a significant step toward recapturing the rare earths technological lead surrendered to China decades ago. What's more, the DOD relationship adds a great deal of credibility to Ucore's domestic supply chain development, representing one of the largest purchasing capabilities amongst prospective customers worldwide."
According to a March 2012 report from DOD, yttrium, terbium, and dysprosium are all considered to be "critical to the production, sustainment, or operation of significant United States military equipment," as well as "subject to interruption of supply, based on actions or events outside the control of the government of the United States." Yttrium, in particular, was shown to be in deficit when considering projected future domestic supply.
The Bokan - Dotson ridge Rare Earth Element project is located approximately 37 southwest of Ketchikan, Alaska and 87 miles northwest of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Bokan Mountain is situated at the southern most part of the Alaskan panhandle, on the southern end of Prince of Wales Island. The Bokan Mountain project covers 19 square miles.
Bokan has direct ocean access to the western seaboard and the Pacific Rim which is a significant advantage in developing near term production facilities and limiting the capital costs associated with mine construction.
In August Ucore announced that the Mineral Industry Research Laboratory of the University of Alaska Fairbanks was awarded a $297,000 by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.
“We’re extremely pleased to have the University of Alaska Fairbanks team involved with the Bokan Mountain project,” said McKenzie. “We welcome the opportunity to work with a very skilled and mining-experienced research staff at UAF, accessing the advanced human and technical resources available at that facility."
The Mineral Industry Research Laboratory of the University of Alaska Fairbanks will be conducting research with respect to the processing and extracting of rare earth element-bearing minerals from ore material sourced from Ucore’s Bokan Mountain deposit. The University will also conduct research on the procedure for the handling of waste rock. These specific process refinements will further enhance metallurgical testing carried out by Ucore. The announcement of this funding highlights the active role of the State of Alaska in the development of its enormous rare earth mineral potential.
McKenzie said, "UAF research involvement should also be indispensable as we advance into pilot scale testing in 2013. We’d additionally like to take this opportunity to thank Governor Parnell’s office for its involvement in this initiative and for the ongoing support of the Bokan Mountain Heavy Rare Earth Project by the State of Alaska.”
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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