The primary goal of this project is to reduce our nation’s reliance on imported Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals (REE-CM) by establishing Alaska’s resources as competitive sources of supply. This project aims to systematically perform a set of broad Basinal Assessments of Alaska’s Carbon Ore, Rare Earth, and Critical Minerals (CORE-CM) found in several of Alaska’s basins.
Included in the analysis will be two basins, which are the basin hosting the Usibelli Coal Mine, which is Alaska’s only operating coal mine, and the basin hosting North America’s largest large-flake graphite deposit, Graphite Creek. This project will also investigate opportunities to create high-value, non-fuel products from carbon ores in basins associated with REE-CM resources to increase their economic potential.
University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK
Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (DGGS), Fairbanks, AK
University of Alaska, Anchorage, AK
Technology Holding, LLC, Salt Lake City, UT
ESP Research, Inc., Idaho Falls, ID
JWP Consulting, LLC, Sandy, UT
Red Leaf Resources, Inc., Salt Lake City, UT
Alaska contains many and varied CORE-CM basins, each with its own set of challenges. One of the main purposes of the project is to systematically perform a set of broad Basinal Assessments of Alaska’s CORE-CM found in several of Alaska’s basins. The University of Alaska has documented encouraging REE-CM concentrations in preliminary studies of coal at two sites, but otherwise Alaska has not seen a systematic analysis of its resource potential. The project will perform analyses on two basins, including the basin hosting the Usibelli Coal Mine, which is Alaska’s only operating coal mine, and the basin hosting North America’s largest large-flake graphite deposit, Graphite Creek. This project will also investigate opportunities to create high-value, non-fuel products from carbon ores in basins associated with REE-CM resources to increase their economic potential.
The project will devise a Priority Matrix for ranking CORE-CM basins. Final rankings will consider the quality of the CORE-CM content, access to infrastructure or ability to build it, readiness of technology to exploit the resource in that location, environmental factors, and market potential.
The project has the potential to improve the REE-CM recoverable resources for both Alaska and the United States, reducing the reliance on foreign imports. The project can also improve Alaska’s infrastructure, establishing access to new areas of interest in a resource-rich environment.
DGGS ordered and received a hand-held X-Ray Fluorimeter (XRF) developed specifically to identify REE-CM markers.
Currently learning XRF’s use and limitations for characterizing REE-CM minerals in the field. Alicja Wypych (DGGS) will help identify targets for initial review using the XRF. Once promising core is discovered within the samples already held by DGGS, the samples will be sent to a lab for ICP-MS analysis. Co-Investigator, Ghosh, is surveying the industry, seeking input into what type of expertise UA may need to hire, and what lab equipment needs to be purchased, to assist the private sector as they implement their business plans for developing their resources within Alaska.
A report, titled “The Economic Potential of Alaska’s Mining Industry” was prepared by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. This report reviewed active mineral properties in Alaska, including those operating, in permitting, and being explored. The report assigned probabilities that these would be operating in 20 years based on their exploration stage. The report assigned probabilities to each group of projects but does not venture an opinion about the prospects for any particular property. Probabilities for projects in the same exploration stage were assigned based on a review of probabilities in the academic literature and the exploration stage for that project group. Hard rock, coal, and placer mines were assigned probabilities separately. Different probabilities were assigned to a future with industry-favorable economic and policy conditions, to a status quo scenario, and to an unfavorable-condition scenario.