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Rare earth minerals topic of Fairbanks conference

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 12:15 am | Updated: 12:07 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - Developing rare earth mineral deposits in Alaska will be promoted at a day-long conference Friday in Fairbanks.

The state and University of Alaska Fairbanks are sponsoring the second annual Alaska Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge.

The conference will include a progress report on the state’s strategic minerals initiative and updates from private companies on exploration, project development and the global supply chain.

State officials estimate that Alaska has about 70 deposits of rare-earth elements. The elements are used in a wide variety of military weapons and other high-tech products, but few of the minerals are produced in the United States. China is the world’s primary supplier.

In Alaska, the Bokan Mountain prospect west of Ketchikan is ranked 15th in North America for total tonnage of rare-earth oxides. Geologists have been looking across the state for others, including in the Ray Mountains near the Yukon River northwest of Fairbanks.

Gov. Sean Parnell announced the state’s initiative in September 2011. The governor called for a statewide assessment of Alaska’s rare-earth mineral potential, incentives for development, improved permitting processes and better coordination between public and private entities.

Speakers at Friday’s conference will include numerous top state officials, including Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan and Department of Commerce, Economic Development and Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bell.

Alaska State Geologist Bob Swenson, UA Vice Chancellor for Research Mark Myers and DNR Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels also will speak.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is expected.

Larry Meinert, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources Program will make a presentation, as will Tom Crafford, director of the state DNR’s Office of Project Management and Permitting.

Numerous private sector leaders also will attend. Hiroyuki Katayama, assistant general manager of Japan Oil, Gas and Metals Corp. in the Vancouver, B.C., office, will speak. Alaska Native regional corporations will be represented by Lance Miller of NANA Regional Corp., Ethan Schutt of Cook Inlet Region Inc. and Matt Ganley of Bering Straits Native Corp.

Curtis Freeman, president of Avalon Development in Fairbanks, and Karl Hanneman, Alaska general manager of Tower Hill Mines’ Livengood Gold Project are also on the schedule.

There is no registration fee. A buffet lunch is available for about $18.66.

A post-conference reception from 6-8 p.m. will be held at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

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