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Alaska to commence mining of rare earth minerals by 2016

An Alaskan company hopes to commence mining of rare earth minerals in the south east of Prince of Wales Island by 2016.

The Ketchikan Daily News reports Ucore Rare Metals’ plans to commence construction of the mine by 2014, contingent upon obtaining the necessary permits, before beginning operation two years subsequently.

Ucore CEO Jim McKenzie says that Alaskan project could help challenge China’s domination of the international rare earth market, with control of 90% of global supply.

“We view the rare-earth space as a sort of race…Obviously China is withdrawing product from international markets fairly aggressively, and the US needs this product” said McKenzie.

Alternative source of rare earth minerals are in strong demand amongst OECD economies, due to their vital role in a swathe of hi-tech industries as well as China’s semi-monopoly on supply.

UCore believes the construction of both the mine and a processing facility would require $221mn and take 21 months to complete. The expected mine life is 11 years with a processing rate of 1,500 tonnes per day.

Alaska is host to some of the richest rare earth reserves in North America, with 70 known occurrences throughout the state.