New study maps out Alaska potential for critical minerals

By Yereth Rosen, Alaska Dispatch News - March 27, 2017

A new look at Alaska’s geology has produced an up-to-date inventory of known and potential mineral deposits around the state.

The inventory, in a new study issued by the U.S. Geological Survey, identifies areas likely to hold minerals ranging from gold — the glittering metal that famously drew thousands of fortune-seekers in early territorial days — to obscure rare-earth elements that are used in ultramodern, high-technology devices.

The study, a collaboration of the USGS and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, uses a new geospatial tool that can analyze publicly available mineral records.

The result, expected to help guide future policies, provides a new perspective on areas that might have been overlooked in the past, the study’s lead author said.

“Some of the areas that showed high potential were already known, but many of these areas had not previously been recognized. Areas identified by this method that have high resource potential based on limited data indicate both understudied and underexplored areas that are important targets for future data collection, research investigations and exploration,” Susan Karl, a USGS research geologist, said in a statement released by the agency.

The study maps resource potential for critical minerals in six deposit groups — rare-earth elements in alkaline granitic rocks, gold and other commodity metals found in placer deposits, platinum in volcanic and intrusive rocks, copper-cobalt-silver-germanium-gallium in carbonate rocks, uranium in sandstone, and tin-tungsten-molybdenum-tantalum-indium in siliceous granitic rock.