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The race is on for North American Rare Earths

While most Rare Earths-related stories focus on China these days, there’s no denying that the race for critical mineral resources has arrived on the North American continent.

As the Fairbanks Daily News Miner reports, Alaska State geologists are excited by the findings of recent mineral cataloguing efforts, with a new $3 million program underway. The latest effort centers on strategic mineral deposits near the Ray Mountains north of Fairbanks, Alaska, “which include both the valuable rare earth elements as well as others such as cobalt, platinum and yttrium.”

While this (and previous related) effort(s) are sure to put Alaska on the map in the global Rare Earths supply debate, our northern neighbors in Canada are also engaged in efforts to get access to Rare Earths beneath their own soil. According to the news site Kenora Online, within five years, Rare Earths developer “Avalon Rare Metals could have invested $100 million at its Thor Lake property in the Northwest Territories, as well as $300 million at a new processing plant on the Gulf Coast.”

The Kenora Online piece cites a tough economic climate with the European financial crisis, uncertainty over the renewal of green energy credits in the U.S., and environmental concerns as obstacles for the Canadian Rare Earths efforts. Meanwhile in the U.S., “Federal and state policymakers continue to dither over domestic mining policy initiatives,” as ARPN expert and MetalMiner co-founder and editor Lisa Reisman has pointed out. As promising as certain mineral deposits may be from a geological perspective – it is not until these policy challenges are addressed that the U.S. will be able to successfully compete in the global race for mineral resources.