My Turn: Realizing the benefits of REEs

Rare Earth Elements (REE’s), while receiving more worldwide attention in recent years, still remain a mystery to much of the public. REE’s are a group of 17 chemical elements that occur together in the periodic table of elements. What makes them valuable are their unique characteristics, such as chemical, catalytic, magnetic, optical, electrical, and metallurgical properties. These properties make them valuable in products such as smart phones, hybrid cars, windmills, military hardware, fiber optics, and other emerging technologies—however, the term “Rare Earth Elements” is somewhat misleading.

REE’s are 200 times more common than gold in the earth’s crust. What makes them “rare” is that they are seldom found in concentrations large enough for economic extraction. That is why globally there are just a handful of countries that are producing rare earth elements; such as China, India, Brazil, Malaysia, and the United States. Of those producers, China currently controls 95 percent of the REE world supply. No one country should be in control of these vital elements. Thus, it is important for the U.S. to capitalize on its REE deposits, especially in Alaska, and particularly here in Southeast.

Alaska’s most advanced project is Bokan Mountain (37 miles south of Ketchikan) on Prince of Wales Island. The flagship of Ucore Rare Metals Inc., Bokan is the site of the former Ross-Adams uranium mine that was in operation between 1957 and 1972. It is estimated that there are between 1 and 6.7 million tons of Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO) and the estimated value of the deposit is between $1 and $6.5 billion. An intact infrastructure, an access road system, and deep water Kendrick Bay allows for easier production for not only Bokan, but also potential investment in other deposits of REE’s in Salmon Bay, Stone Rock Bay, and Dora Lake.

What makes REE mining exciting is that Alaska has the potential to become the center of U.S. rare earth production by building an REE processing and refinement plant—perhaps here in Southeast. Even more ambitious, Alaska could also specialize in manufacturing magnets which are used in products made from the refined elements.

Having an REE mine in Alaska could provide immense benefits to the state’s economy and residents.

Not only would we have the largest REE mine in the country, but we could also create a brand new industry if we processed, refined, and manufactured products made from these elements. Alaska has always had a bright future because we have never been afraid to explore new ideas.

Let’s give the next generation something to be proud of by encouraging the development of REEs.

For more information visit or

• Wilson (R-Wrangell) serves District 2 in the Alaska House of Representatives.


My Turn: Arts council restructuring presents great opportunities

As Alaska faces the most severe fiscal crisis since statehood, Alaskans are responding in a variety of ways. These responses are individual, as people adjust their spending habits and economic choices, and collective, as government locally and statewide seeks ways to economize, become more efficient and reconsider methods of doing business that have gone unchanged for decades.

Read more
Fri, 02/24/2017 - 11:09

Conservative group’s carbon plan gives us hope for climate change action

The following editorial first appeared in The Dallas Morning News: Read more

Letter: Drug war disasters re-emerge

“Drug-related property crimes” emerges as the latest scare call from Capitol building operants. An array of poorly correlated data and distorted interpretations embellishes the rhetoric of the state legislature. That’s what politicians do — if we continue to encourage said behaviors.

Read more

Smallest of lives

“Here in the arctic, the smallest of lives are miraculous,” said poet Terry Tempest Williams during a trip to ANWR.

Read more


  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback