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Exploration Season Opens for Prince of Wales Prospects

May 18, 2022 | Mining, News

Bokan Dotson Drilling Ucore

Drilling at the Bokan-Dotson Ridge REE site.


Developers of the Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth element mine and the Niblack gold-silver-copper mine are sending exploration workers out in the field for the summer.

Drill Cores for Ucore

Ucore Rare Metals is mobilizing a geological crew to conduct a summer 2022 fieldwork program at the Bokan-Dotson Ridge mineral deposit near the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island. The program is a continuation of Ucore’s 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2014 Bokan Mountain Complex exploration drill programs and is being undertaken by Aurora Geosciences of Juneau. The program is designed to improve the geological confidence of the mineral deposit in preparation for a forthcoming planned pre-feasibility study (PFS).

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The approximately five-week program consists of two primary planned objectives:

1. Conduct a channel sampling program along the approximately 2 kilometer exposed vein outcroppings of the Dotson Ridge Zone and incorporate these results into the current deposit model. Upgrade the Bokan-Dotson Ridge Zone mineral resource estimate from the current 18 percent indicated and 82 percent inferred classifications to include a 17 percent to 20 percent measured classification later in 2022. The measured resource will be drawn predominantly from the current indicated resource, with more than 90 percent of the new measured material being drawn from the indicated resource and 10 percent from the inferred resource.

2. Extract approximately 50 tonnes of additional mineralized material from two 2021 selected bulk sample locations to support a follow-on mill flowsheet pilot-scale testing program as part of a PFS. This work will be derived from the current mill flowsheet development work that is ongoing at the SGS Canada laboratory in Ontario. The produced mineral concentrate from this pilot-scale testing will then be processed at the RapidSX commercialization and development facility’s demonstration plant as part of Ucore deploying its trademarked solvent extraction technology. The summer program is a prerequisite step in preparation for obtaining potential feedstock mineral concentrate from Bokan to supply Ucore’s planned Alaska Strategic Metals Complex (SMC) in Ketchikan.

“Aurora Geosciences has been involved in exploration work at Bokan Mountain for over a decade,” says Ucore Vice President and COO Mike Schrider. “Jim Robinson and his team have put together a mineral resource upgrade program for 2022 that will enable us to finalize our exploration efforts towards developing the Bokan Project as we respond to Western electrification demands and the associated need for rare earth critical metals.”

Ucore’s stated goal is to create a North American supply chain for rare earth elements (REE), a global market currently dominated by China. The company describes Bokan-Dotson Ridge as having the highest grade heavy REE resources in the United States, particularly terbium and dysprosium oxides, two elements associated with permanent magnet synchronous motors used in electric vehicles (EVs).

“As automakers shift to electrification, a totally new metallic supply chain must be created,” says Ucore Chairman and CEO Pat Ryan. “The historical automotive business was vertically integrated, with rubber plants in South America to an array of steel manufacturing plants as a key part of their production strategy. Today automakers from Ford to GM to VW realize that controlling source raw materials right back to the mine could determine how many electric vehicles they will be able to make and at what cost. The further development of the Bokan Mountain Complex for long term security of rare earth oxides used in powerful electric motors presents an opportunity for deep integration of Western supply chains.”

Schrider adds, “Continued execution of the company’s long-term Bokan Mountain development plans, coupled with our near-term plan to construct the Alaska SMC 35 miles to the northeast of Bokan in Ketchikan, represents a unique opportunity for Ucore, the communities of Southeast Alaska, and the State of Alaska. Working together as a team and with our stakeholders, we can help lead the United States’ concerted effort to establish an independent REE supply chain to support the transformation to EVs and renewable energy sources and ensure that high-paying family-wage jobs are generated and maintained in Southeast Alaska for decades to come.”

Meanwhile at Tidewater

Farther south on Prince of Wales Island, closer to shore, Blackwolf Copper and Gold is planning a multi-phased exploration campaign at its Niblack Project. The season’s work includes diamond drilling focused on both resource definition and exploration.

“Blackwolf is looking forward to a year with numerous catalysts, including discovery-focused exploration at our flagship, Niblack copper-gold-silver-zinc VMS [volcanogenic massive sulfide ore] deposit, and an upcoming, updated mineral resource estimate incorporating recent drilling and our comprehensive new geological interpretations,” says Rob McLeod, president and CEO of Blackwolf Copper and Gold. “We appreciate our shareholders’ patience during our various permitting processes and Niblack site upgrades. It is our commitment to operate safe, clean, and low-impact projects in southeast Alaska. We are now set up to rapidly advance one of the largest, undeveloped underground copper-gold deposits in the Pacific northwest.”

In 2021, the company made a significant geological breakthrough on the property, confirming that the folded volcanic stratigraphy was overturned. This new interpretation opened significant areas of prospective stratigraphy for exploration and resource expansion.

Blackwolf concluded that priority targets are best drilled, initially, from helicopter-supported surface drilling, versus inclined holes from the underground workings. Drilling will ideally occur in multiple phases, split approximately 50/50 between resource definition/expansion and exploration. In addition, geological mapping, high resolution drone imagery, prospecting, and geophysical surveys will be conducted to assess potential future targets.

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Welcome to the June 2024 issue, which features our annual Transportation Special Section. We've paired it this year with a focus on the Pacific Northwest and Hawai'i, as Alaska has close ties to both that reach far beyond lines of transportation. Even further out past our Pacific Ocean compatriots and our Canadian neighbors to the east, Alaska's reach extends to India and Singapore. Enjoy this issue that explores many of Alaska's far-flung business dealings.
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