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Governor Urges Federal Support in Development of Rare Earth Elements

February 22, 2011, Juneau, Alaska – Recognizing Alaska’s potential to secure a domestic supply of rare earth elements (REEs), today Governor Sean Parnell sent a letter to President Obama urging his administration to partner with Alaska to develop Alaska’s promising supplies of REEs.

“Alaska has already identified some of the most promising REE sites in the nation and we should be working to find more,” said Governor Parnell.

Governor Parnell has proposed funding for a comprehensive 3-year project to determine the potential of REEs deposits on state lands. This project will include conducting geologic field work and developing Alaska specific REE mineral-deposit models.

In the letter, Governor Parnell urged President Obama to consider directing the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct a similar inventory and geological field work project on federal lands in Alaska. The governor also urged better coordination in the federal permitting process.

“The federal mine permitting system in the United States ranks as the least efficient or timely of 25 mining countries, with an average time frame of 7-10 years to deliver a permit,” Governor Parnell said. “This compares to Australia where permits are often issued in 1-2 years.  In order to ensure an effective National Environmental Policy Act process, high ranking managers from federal agencies with decision making authority (particularly from the EPA) need to coordinate early and often with each other, permit applicants and state agencies.”

Governor Parnell also urged President Obama to work with Congress to review the merits of amending existing federal statutes to provide the U.S. Department of Energy with authority to provide loan guarantees, grants, and tax credits for the general mining and processing of REEs.

The People’s Republic of China currently controls 97 percent of the world market for REEs. Recently, China imposed trade quotas and increased tariffs on these precious commodities. And, China announced it is substantially reducing access to these rare earth elements.

A copy of Governor Parnell’s letter to President Obama is available at:

http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell_media/resources_files/gov_rareearth.pdf

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