Bokan Mountain Rare Earth Project

Bokan Mountain Rare Earth Project

Source: Southeast Alaska Conservation Council

The Bokan Mountain Rare Earth Element   project is located in southern Prince of Wales Island. Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (formerly Ucore Uranium Inc.) has conducted exploratory drilling in the Dotson Ridge and I&L deposits for rare earth elements (REEs).  In 2011 Ucore  released an estimate that the site containes 3.7 million tons of REEs.  U-core also announced in 2011 that the US Forest Service had granted them a request for priority permitting, and Ucore predicts that production could begin in 2015.

Rare earth elements are a set of seventeen elements with many uses including in green technologies.  They are called “rare” not because they are uncommon but because they are seldom found in the high concentrations that make it economically feasible to mine them.

Bokan Mountain is the site of the closed and contaminated Ross-Adams Uranium  mine. The Ross-Adams mine drains into Kendrick Creek and Kendrick Bay, as would any future mines at Bokan  mountain.  A 2004 US Forest Service study found lead, arsenic and radioactive isotopes 3 to 4 times the background levels in Kendrick Creek and nearby tidal flats of Kendrick Bay.  This poses a risk to the commercial fishing and subsistence fish and shellfish gathering in Kendrick Bay.  Kendrick Creek and Bay are on the Alaska Impaired Waters List.

Active exploration on the rare earth prospects took place throughout both 2010 and 2011. A “priority permitting process” granted in August 2011 by the USFS could move the development forward by around a year. No opening date has been set but could be as early as 2015. In January 2013 the company released a “Preliminary Economic Assessment” which outlined plan for a 1,500 ton/day processing plant and a mine lifetime of 11 years. The mineral resource was estimated at 5.2 million tons of rare earth ore.

In February 2013 Ucore announced that it is working on the feasibility study for the mine.

The state is also considering development of a road to this area which would greatly
facilitate access. In January, 2013, Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a bill to the US
senate to allow for 18 miles of road through a roadless area in the Tongass National Forest
on Prince of Wales Island to the Bokan Mountain and Niblack prospects.

In September 2012 the Minerals Industry Resource Laboratory at University of Alaska
Fairbanks received a $297,000 contract from the Alaska Department of Commerce,
Community and Economic Development to research the processing of rare earth elements. The lab seeks to identify the best methods of processing rare earths and dealing with waste rock. The study will use ore material supplied by Ucore.

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