Last week, Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. issued a press release that declared its Pebble Mine, located in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, as the “most significant” source of rhenium in the world.
Rhenium, one of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust, is prized in military and industrial applications for its high melting point yet remained unheard of to most investors until U.S. President Donald Trump included it on a list of critical elements in 2017 whose permitting should be prioritized and streamlined.
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Advertising the Pebble Mine as a significant source of rhenium marks the latest strategy by Northern Dynasty to advance its long delayed, highly controversial, project — a polymetallic deposit that contains copper, gold, molybdenum, rhenium and various other metals.
Its controversy stems from its location in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, a pristine tundra connected to North America’s most productive salmon fishery, facts which have united environmentalists who want to protect the area from industrial development with political figures who would otherwise be likely to support a giant mining project, such as Donald Trump Jr. At the same time, its potential to open a whole new mining district is exactly what attracts mining companies and investors, and may be what ensures a long, protracted battle over its future.