October 04, 2011
Hundreds of political leaders, mining officials and executives, geologists, and national security experts converged at Alaska’s Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit in Fairbanks on Sept. 30 to examine the benefits of—and challenges to—accessing the state’s untapped critical minerals resources.
Critical minerals are those that are subject to possible supply restrictions, but necessary to sectors such as energy, defense and manufacturing. Among those considered critical are rare earth elements—minerals that were largely the focus of the summit.
Currently, the United States relies on China for more than 90 percent of its rare earths consumption—a statistic China is leveraging to its strategic advantage. But according to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earths within known U.S. deposits, and many of the deposits are located in Alaska. In fact, with exploration companies standing ready to develop approximately 70 promising sites that have been identified by state geologists, Reuters reported that Alaska could soon be “the Silicon Valley of rare earths.”