Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 120
04/14/2010 09:00 AM RULES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HR 16-MINING/PROCESSING OF RARE EARTH ELEMENTS 9:06:13 AM CHAIR DAHLSTROM announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 16, Relating to the mining and processing of rare earth elements in Alaska and to the stockpiling of rare earth elements; and urging the United States Congress to pass H.R. 4866. 9:06:32 AM REPRESENTATIVE CRAIG JOHNSON, Alaska State Legislature, speaking as the sponsor of HR 16, explained that HR 16 requests support for the U.S. Congress to pass H.R. 4866, which encourages the U.S. to become independent of foreign powers in terms of rare earth elements. He noted that these rare earth elements are essential and are used in defense and light bulbs. Currently, about 97 percent of rare earth minerals are imported from China. He noted that Alaska is blessed with these rare earth minerals. In fact, a mine is being constructed in Bokan Mountain, which is located in southern Alaska. He encouraged the committee to forward HR 16 in order to forward Alaska's message that it's prepared to stand on its own and develop its own resources. 9:08:55 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER said that she finds this very exciting. She then inquired as to whether H.R. 4866 is necessary to move forward with the mine located at Bokan Mountain. With regard to the processing, refining, and purification part of this industry, Representative Gardner asked if the minerals are extracted in small enough quantities to have value-added activities in Alaska, without increasing the shipping cost. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON responded that now there is only one processing facility in the U.S., located in California, and it can't handle the minerals that would be mined. This resolution would call for Alaska to develop [this technology for rare elements]. The minerals are very low radioactive level minerals. He explained that the mines for these rare earth minerals are narrow shaft mines because the minerals, which are in small quantities, are located in very narrow veins with high concentrates. Therefore, it's practical to have the processing plants in Alaska, although it's more practical to adapt the California facility immediately. Representative Johnson noted that he has asked the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), when performing its aerial mapping of Alaska, to include equipment that would seek [and identify] these minerals. 9:11:38 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER expressed hope that one would find a way to have a situation in which the rare ore is [processed] within the state. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON agreed with trying to add value by processing these rare elements in the state. 9:12:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN pointed out that processing any minerals will take energy, which will require a gas pipeline. He related his excitement with regard to the value-added aspect of mining and processing these rare earth elements in Alaska. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON added that these minerals are present in water found in oil fields and in geothermal waters throughout the world. Therefore, he has requested that the waters across the inlet from Anchorage be tested for rare earth elements. He then noted that the largest rare earth mine is in Australia. In closing, Representative Johnson pointed out that Alaska can be on the cutting edge with rare earth elements because these minerals aren't sold on the market. 9:15:47 AM REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA thanked the sponsor and Chair Dahlstrom with regard to how they handled this resolution. 9:16:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE OLSON moved to report HR 16 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, it was so ordered. 9:16:30 AM The committee took a brief at-ease.