Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 120

04/14/2010 09:00 AM RULES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved Out of Committee
Moved CSHR 17(RLS) Out of Committee
Moved HCS SB 301(RLS) Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
        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.                                                                                             

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