Alaska's Path to Independence

April 9, 2024

Have you ever considered what the world would be like without metals? 

If the United States’ supply of metals and minerals were interrupted or–of more grave concern–unavailable, how would that affect our everyday life and the innovations needed for a sustainable future?

America is at a Strategic Crossroads 

Did you know that more than half of essential minerals are imported to the U.S., including 31 out of 35 critical ones, making our nation vulnerable? Or that according to the U.S. Geological Survey's 2024 report on mineral commodities the U.S., depends on imports for 100% of its supply of 12 of the 50 minerals deemed critical to the nation's economy and security? This includes metals that may not be as widely known by some but are nonetheless crucial to our nation’s defense capabilities and long-term energy transition goals: gallium for computer chips, graphite and manganese for lithium-ion batteries, and indium and tantalum for electronic devices.

It doesn’t end there. China controls 80% of the global rare earth elements market, and the Minerals Commodity Summary 2023 shows the U.S. at a crucial state of import reliance for a host of other important minerals.

  • 95% of rare earths – a group of 14 elements used to manufacture an array of civilian and military technologies.
  • 95% of titanium – a light yet strong metal used in aerospace alloys and everyday products from smartphones to tablets, computers and more.
  • 82% of antimony – a metalloid with a wide variety of civilian and defense applications and a top concern of the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • 74% of tin – a metal used for circuitry in virtually all electronics.
  • 57% of nickel – a metal traditionally used in stainless steel and other alloys and now surging in demand for electric vehicle batteries.

The alarming mineral dependence on China, as well as Russia, which is also a significant global producer of various metals, should galvanize the U.S. to establish more robust domestic supplies.

Photo courtesy of Coeur Kensington Mine

The Alaska Path

Could Alaska become a major hub for the minerals critical to the 21st century? Absolutely. 

Alaska has significant mineral resources of copper, zinc, silver, gold, graphite, cobalt, and rare earth elements. These abundant reserves offer considerable potential to enhance U.S. mineral independence.

  • Alaska’s resources provide a diversified source of minerals crucial for various industries, reducing dependency on imports from other countries. This is especially important for those considered geopolitically risky or unstable, or areas that may have trade disputes.
  • Many of the elements found in Alaska are considered strategic minerals vital for national security and high-tech industries including electronics, defense technologies, and renewable energy systems.
  • Access to minerals domestically can strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industries by ensuring a stable and consistent supply of raw materials
  • Expanding the development of Alaska’s mining capacity could lead to advancements in a wide range of technologies including advancements in environmentally sustainable mining practices, while ensuring responsible resource development and minimizing environmental impacts.
  • Developing Alaska’s mineral resources can create job opportunities and stimulate economic growth in the state, benefiting local communities and contributing to national economic prosperity.