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Defense Department Plans Rare-Earth Deposit Study

The U.S. Department of Defense agreed to conduct a study at a site in Alaska that contains some of the rare-earth minerals it says are critical to the country’s military.

The department will carry out a mineralogical and metallurgical evaluation of Ucore Rare Metals Inc.’s Bokan Mountain deposit, Halifax, Canada-based Ucore said today in a statement. Ucore will share information with the government and may eventually supply rare earths such as yttrium and dysprosium, Chief Executive Officer Jim McKenzie said in a telephone interview.

The department “recognizes we have critical strategic metals at Bokan that are unavailable anywhere else in America,” he said.

China accounts for more than 90 percent of global rare-earth supply. The department in a March report identified heavy rare earths as critical to the production and operation of military equipment. Heavy rare earths are the less abundant members of the rare-earth family, such as dysprosium, used in wind turbines, and erbium, used in lasers.

Ucore has the largest registered resource of heavy rare earths in the U.S., according to McKenzie.

Great Western Minerals Group Ltd., another Canadian rare-earth company, said today in a separate statement that it was chosen by the department to study the supply of yttrium oxide, which is used in jet engines.

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