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Prices skyrocket for rare earth elements

Amanda Coyne
Stephen Nowers illustration

GIRDWOOD -- Policymakers have been worrying for some time that China, which produces and supplies 97 percent of the world’s rare earth elements, has been artificially inflating the price of REEs by cutting back on production. According to the India-based Business Standard, China has “clamped on mining and cut export quotas, boosting prices and sparking concerns among overseas users like Japan.”

A recent report by Industrial Minerals, a Canada-based mining industry publication, confirms that prices of REEs have been skyrocketing. Some elements have risen a staggering 142 percent, according to the report.

The cost of dysprosium oxide, used in magnets, lasers and nuclear reactors, for example, has risen to about $1,470 a kilogram from $700 to $740 at the start of the month.

Enter Alaska. A prospective mine at Bokan Mountain near Ketchikan, to name just one, is thought to be one of the three largest sources of REEs in the U.S., probably the largest for dysprosium.

All told, Bokan Mountain is thought to hold about 3.8 million tons of REEs. As U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski put it, "more than enough to break China's stranglehold on the market and protect America's access to the rare earths that are vital to the production of cutting-edge technologies in this country."

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan recently delivered to a U.S. House subcommittee last week in testimony on a couple of pieces of legislation aimed at finding and developing REEs. Read Alaska Dispatch coverage of his testimony here. And more coverage on REEs here, and here.

There’s been some buzz about investing in Alaska’s REEs at the Arctic Imperative Conference, taking place now until June 21. Check back for updates.