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Rare earth elements

The political climate is warming to the idea of mining rare earth elements domestically.

When it comes to rare earth elements mining, no place is more "domestic" to Ketchikan than southern Southeast Alaska, specifically Bokan Mountain located only 60 miles southwest of Ketchikan on Prince of Wales Island.

It is the site of a rare earth elements deposit. Some of these elements — a group of 27 minerals overall — are directly related to national security. The United States' defenses depend on strategic equipment constructed with the minerals.

Ucore, which intends to develop the Bokan project, received legislative approval in 2014 for Alaska Import Development and Export Authority to invest up to $145 million.

The Legislature's support wasn't only visionary, but wise given the current climate to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign nations.

Currently, China controls more than 90 percent of saleable rare earth elements worldwide. The Chinese government can choose to provide these elements to the United States or not; it also controls prices.

That monopoly is why rare earth elements should be mined in Alaska and the other states with deposits — to reduce foreign dependency, particularly when it comes to national security.

Second to that is that mining the elements within the United States will create both jobs at a mine site and for businesses that provide goods and services to a mining operation.

Increased jobs also create opportunities for new businesses, leading to greater support of infrastructure and local government services. Communities can better provide for their needs and desires.

The U.S. isn't without the power to bring this about. While the U.S. depends on China for the rare earth elements, Chinese industry sells billions of dollars in other items to the United States. China doesn't want to lose the U.S. market.

Given that, the U.S. has the ability to negotiate with China and create an environment in which the U.S. deposits of rare earth elements can be developed. In the past China has dropped prices to make these developments unprofitable. Then after the competition closed its doors, it returned to higher prices to maintain its monopoly.

If the U.S. is to become self-reliant when it comes to its national defense and boost its economy, the political climate has warmed to it in recent months. It's time to take off the gloves and negotiate for the benefit of Americans' safety and well-being.