Mining News: Ucore hails critical minerals EO
Ucore Rare Metals Inc. Dec. 22 said President Donald Trump’s executive order to ensure reliable supplies of critical minerals is a fundamental policy shift that is important to the company and its Bokan Mountain rare earth elements project in Southeast Alaska. The executive order signed by Trump on Dec. 20 instructs federal agencies to identify and publish a list of critical minerals, and develop a strategy to reduce the United States’ reliance on other countries to supply them. The order acknowledges that continued reliance on foreign nations such as China for a critical supply of minerals is dangerous and jeopardizes the United States' technological superiority and military readiness. "This EO represents a turning point in US critical mineral policy, and a sea change in thinking from the past 30 years," said Ucore President and CEO Jim McKenzie. "It portends the dropping of unnecessary and duplicative regulatory barriers, the opening of capital markets to mining investment, and the US government finally embracing the link between critical materials and national security.” The U.S. Geological Survey Dec. 19 published a report that identifies 23 critical minerals. Rare earth elements are included on this list of minerals considered essential to the economic and national security of the United States. While their high-tech applications make them vital to the wellbeing of the United States, the fact that more than 90 percent of the nation’s rare earths come from China elevates their status to critical. Ucore’s Bokan Mountain project at the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska has been identified as a potential domestic source of rare earths. A preliminary economic assessment completed for Bokan envisions a 1,500-metric-ton-per-day mining operation that would churn out 2,250 metric tons of rare earth oxides annually during the first five years of full production. This yearly supply included some of the more critical REEs such as 95 metric tons of dysprosium oxide, 14 metric tons of terbium oxide and 515 metric tons of yttrium oxide. With the technical expertise of Utah-based IBC Advanced Technologies Inc., Ucore is also pioneering the use of molecular recognition technology to separate the 16 individual REEs, elements usually found together but are notoriously hard to separate. SuperLig-One, a pilot plant using this technology, a successfully separated rare earths from a solution derived from Bokan Mountain and is being applied to non-conventional sources such as REE bearing coal tailing “With our plans for strategic metals production capabilities in Southeast Alaska and with significant strategic minerals resources at hand, Ucore is well positioned to take advantage of this executive order and its benefits,” said McKenzie.