A petition campaign to ask voters to formalize recognition of Alaska’s tribal sovereignty is at the top of its agenda. A Canadian company has big plans to mine and process minerals from Alaska to meet global demand for metals. And the US Army offers $50,000 signing bonuses to recruits with specialized skills.

There’s more news in Five Things to Know.

Tribal vote initiative progresses

Supporters of a measure that would add formal recognition of Alaska’s 229 federally recognized tribes to state law have handed over signatures to put the initiative in front of voters.

Alaskans for Better Government has submitted 56,200 petition signatures to the Division of Elections to have the Alaska Tribal Recognition Act passed this year. Signatures must be state certified, with 36,140 required.

Although the measure does not make any legal changes, proponents say its passage would improve the government-to-government relationship.

“Together, in a mutually agreed and strong relationship, the state and the tribes could leverage their status, infrastructure and funds and have the potential to generate millions of dollars to invest in education, health care health, criminal justice, etc.” for Better Government on its website.

Alaska’s mineral wealth

Will Alaska’s natural resources help meet the global demand for minerals that fuel smart technology?

Ucore, a Canadian-based company, plans to develop a processing plant in Alaska that uses new technology to process rare-earth minerals for use in electric vehicles and other smart technologies.

The future Alaska Strategic Metals Complex would be the first of its kind in North America. The $35 million plant in Ketchikan would help establish supply chain infrastructure in Alaska to produce the minerals in high demand for high-tech devices, the company says.

Rare earth mineral mining in Alaska is being considered for Prince of Wales Island, southwest of Ketchikan.

Ucore said its goal was to take advantage of Alaska’s natural resources to compete in a market dominated by China. China controls 90% of the world’s mineral supply.

Global transition to electric vehicles

The growing popularity of electric vehicles is driving the surge in demand for lithium, nickel, cobalt and other minerals used to make car batteries.

The transition is a boon for mineral producers. Lithium prices are at an all-time high due to demand. As a result, battery costs are rising for the first time in a decade.

Vehicles with combustion engines that travel on US highways emit about 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year, a major contributor to global warming.

Six automakers, including Ford and GM, have pledged to eliminate sales of new cars with combustion engines by 2040.

A $50,000 signing bonus?

The US military finds itself in the same situation as many private employers: it needs more personnel.

The Army is offering a $50,000 signing bonus to recruits who bring specific skills in high-demand fields. The offer is the highest bonus ever given to new army recruits.

But there are caveats. Recruits must agree to sign up for six years to be eligible for the bounty. Army signing bonuses vary in value, depending on several factors, including choice of areas and length of enlistments. A recruit who brings essential language skills, for example, is subject to a higher signing bonus.

The military said it was competing with the private sector in a tight labor market. For more information, visit recruitment.army.mil.

Cannabis and covid

No, smoking cannabis is not a cure for Covid. But a new study suggests certain compounds in cannabis may help prevent the virus.

Researchers at Oregon State University have reported that two specific compounds found in hemp plants prevent the coronavirus from entering human cells. The researchers said their findings suggest cannabis derivatives could help ward off Covid-19.

The cannabis compounds studied by the researchers are not the same ones that people ingest through smoking or consuming edibles, the researchers said.