JUNEAU - An Australia mining company is seeking permission to start exploratory drilling for the rare element vanadium in southeast Alaska.
Northern Cobalt Ltd. has applied to the U.S. Forest Service for the proposed project on Snettisham Inlet, CoastAlaska reported. The site is in the Tongass National Forest about 35 miles southeast of Juneau.
Vanadium is used in steel alloys, as well as rechargeable industrial batteries used in power grids and industrial plants.
There are no active federal mining claims at the site. Exploratory drilling for iron ore was conducted at the location in 2012, but those claims were abandoned amid a collapse in iron prices.
In a promotional video, the company said the site has economic potential for a "vanadium bearing magnetite system." In February, the company conducted aerial magnetic surveys there.
The company envisions three bore holes being drilled in August, with the deepest hole measuring about 1,400 feet.
In the video, managing director Michael Schwarz says an iron ore mine would not be viable. "But if you look at the value of the vanadium in the system, you can see that there is a lot of potential in this project," Schwarz said.
Schwarz also notes the site's proximity to a power station.
The Snettisham Hydroelectric Project is a state-owned power plant that's operated by Juneau-based Alaska Electric Light & Power. The private utility buys and resells its electricity to supply Juneau's grid and other customers, including a metals mine on Admiralty Island.
AEL&P spokeswoman Debbie Driscoll said the utility has not been contacted about the potential project.
The Forest Service is reviewing the company's application and accepting public comments through July 26.
Agency officials say a reclamation bond would be required before drilling is allowed.