A meeting on rare earth minerals drew a big crowd in Fairbanks on Friday. The state sponsored Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit brought together government, industry and research officials to discuss Alaska’s rare earth potential. The minerals are in high demand by technology industries for making everything from batteries to sensors and other electronic components. China currently controls the market, but Alaska is one of the other places with rare earths, and Governor Sean Parnell told the 250 conference attendees, the state wants to compete.
The state is spending millions of dollars to survey and catalogue rare earth mineralization sites in Alaska. There are 70 known already, including Mt. Prindle, north of Fairbanks and Bokan Mountain, near Ketchikan. The Bokan prospect, which is being investigated by a private company, contains dysprosium, a metal used in the making of electronic parts in high demand by the auto industry. Jack Lifton of Illinois based Technology Metals Research, and an authority on rare earth metals, urged Alaska to compete with China, which is holding back its dysprosium. Lifton laid out a plan by which Alaska could develop an in state rare earth industry with the resource at Bokan Mountain.
Lifton stressed the importance of developing a complete industry, from mining to processing and manufacturing of electronic components.