Rare earth elements in US not so rare: report

Nov 17, 2010

Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.

This estimate of domestic rare earth deposits is part of a larger report that includes a review of global sources for REE, information on known deposits that might provide domestic sources of REE in the future, and geologic information crucial for studies of the availability of REE to U.S. industry.

The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

"This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the ," commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. "It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nation's natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come."

REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth's crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

Hard-rock deposits yield the most economically exploitable concentrations of REE. USGS researchers also analyzed two other types of REE deposits: placer and phosphorite deposits. Placer deposits are alluvial formations of sandy sediments, which often contain concentrations of heavy, dense minerals, some containing REE. Phosphorite deposits, which mostly occur in the southeastern U.S., contain large amounts of phosphate-bearing minerals. These phosphates can yield yttrium and lanthanum, which are also REE.

Ninety-six percent of REE produced globally now comes from China. New REE mines are being developed in Australia, and projects exploring the feasibility of economically developing additional REE deposits are under way in the United States, Australia, and Canada; successful completion of these projects could help meet increasing demand for REE, the report said.

REE are important ingredients in high-strength magnets, metal alloys for batteries and light-weight structures, and phosphors. These are essential components for many current and emerging alternative energy technologies, such as electric vehicles, photo-voltaic cells, energy-efficient lighting, and wind power. REEs are also critical for a number of key defense applications.

This report is part of a larger, Department of Defense-funded study of how the United States, and the Department of Defense in particular, use REE, as well as the status and security of domestic and global supply chains. In addition, the USGS National Minerals Information Center maintains statistics on global mineral production, trade, and resources that include .

Explore further: Sea-level surge at Antarctica linked to icesheet loss

More information: The new USGS report, which provides an overview of domestic REE resources and possibilities for utilizing those resources, is available on line at pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5220

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geokstr
2.8 / 5 (13) Nov 17, 2010
That's the good news.

The bad news is that, in order to secure from the government the "privilege" of mining for these, plus complying with all the EPA, DOJ and OSHA regulations, and paying for the thousands of lawsuits that will be brought by environmental crazies that will have to be settled first, it will cost an estimated 37 trillion dollars and half a century before the first ground is even broken.

Of course, for the crazies, that is the good news.
axemaster
2.8 / 5 (10) Nov 18, 2010
Yeah, because giant pools of corrosive acid and systematic pollution aren't worrysome at all... They only cause cancer, create all manner of illness, and destroy the surrounding landscape to fuel corporate profits at the expense of the people who have to live around it.

Yeah, crazies. Keep drinking the kool-aid buddy.
Uri
5 / 5 (5) Nov 18, 2010
Yeah, because giant pools of corrosive acid and systematic pollution aren't worrysome at all... They only cause cancer, create all manner of illness, and destroy the surrounding landscape to fuel corporate profits at the expense of the people who have to live around it.


Point taken, still its OK for china to do the same to provide us all with a "green" lifestyle?

Bonkers
5 / 5 (3) Nov 18, 2010
have a look at this cross-posting for a detailed and lucid review of alternatives to lakes of acid etc.

http://www.thereg...s_china/
Modernmystic
2.2 / 5 (6) Nov 18, 2010
Yeah, because giant pools of corrosive acid and systematic pollution aren't worrysome at all... They only cause cancer, create all manner of illness, and destroy the surrounding landscape to fuel corporate profits at the expense of the people who have to live around it.

Yeah, crazies. Keep drinking the kool-aid buddy.


Pre-industrial life was FAR worse. But your post is no better than someone asking the question "How often do you beat your wife". You're assuming a hell of a lot in it.

Honestly though, ASSUMING you're 100% correct and we have to deal with all the "lakes of acid" and "systematic pollution"...I'll take it every day of the week and twice on Sunday to what we had before industry.
lengould100
5 / 5 (4) Nov 18, 2010
I think there should be a compromise daclared. Those who "generally disfavour" industrial development such as axmaster are free to demand the right to assume that there likely does exist some proportion among the group who "generally favour" industrial development of people who are ruthless regarding nature and wish to exploit it at any cost to the enviroment, as implied in axmaster's post above, PROVIDED they also acknowledge that among their own likeminded's there also exist some proportion who are absolutely deadset against any improvements to the condition of humans since the days of Lucy in the African rift valleys, and will exploit the legal system endlessly to block such.

Both extreme positions are wrong, which needs to be acknowledged by all.
lengould100
4 / 5 (2) Nov 18, 2010
Also must be acknowledged that "huge acid lakes" in China are no better for the earth than same in USA, and in fact the situation in China for a given unit of output is likely much worse. Axmaster must either give up his Prius with its rare earth magnet drive motor and rare-earth-enhanced electronic components, or concede the necessity of mining rare earths.
dnatwork
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 18, 2010
I believe axemaster was referring to the specific reasons that the Mountain Pass was shut down in 2002, not spouting environmental knee-jerk craziness. From Wikipedia: "In 1998...hundreds of thousands of gallons of water carrying radioactive waste spilled into and around Ivanpah Dry Lake."

If you think you and your kids can live in a post-industrial world that is encrusted with toxic and radioactive waste, then sure, we should pay no attention to the environmental cost of exploiting the land. Or, we could put some thought and effort and money into preserving the land for the life we are supposedly improving.

China? Slap them with tariffs for environmental crimes. Work on their population to demand better from their government. Campaign for global boycotts of their products until they change. Do not sink to their level just because you can't think of better ways to compete.
JamesThomas
4 / 5 (2) Nov 18, 2010
have a look at this cross-posting for a detailed and lucid review of alternatives to lakes of acid etc.

http://www.thereg...s_china/


Thanks for this. It's clear we need to get our heads out of 1960's technology and rethink what we can do now. We actually can be green, being green.
geokstr
1 / 5 (4) Nov 19, 2010
"If you think you and your kids can live in a post-industrial world that is encrusted with toxic and radioactive waste, then sure, we should pay no attention to the environmental cost of exploiting the land."

And if you think that going back to the Stone Age, as the AGW apocalyptics and the enviro-crazies desire, will even leave enough food and other commodities for you to think its worth having any children to begin with, then by all means, stop technology in its tracks to make certain we avoid 100% of any risk whatsoever. That'll work.

Once we've eliminated 80% of the homo sapiens sapiens, via lottery or other government initiative, like Soylent Green or something, we will return to pastoral bliss where everything is rainbows and unicorns and where each will produce according to his abilities and receive according to his needs.

So sayeth the Das of Kapital, third psalm, book of St Karl of Marx.
Ethelred
3 / 5 (4) Nov 20, 2010
If you think creating a straw man constitutes a convincing argument you must have read for the Book of Goebels.

There now we have the obligatory commie and nazi claims and the thread has barely started.

Soylent Green was about OVER population so you can't even manage make things up to fit your fantasies.
Really bad when you make up both sides and still show yourself wrong.

Ethelred
fireofenergy1
not rated yet Nov 21, 2010
Lakes of acid... What a farce! I would rather have a few dirty holes than a totally wasted planet... The article is not lying about the need to mine our own REE's. Only a fool would continually rely on China. We need REE's to make the things that we don't even know about yet! And to overcome oil depletion and excess CO2 emittance.

I'm all out to educate the masses about how important this really is (and clean affordable energy). Thus, it should be considered TREASON to make (or abide by) any laws that interfere with strategic metals mining!
Parsec
not rated yet Nov 21, 2010
We absolutely need REE's. It is not crazy either to understand this OR to want them mined as safely as possible.

Surely it is possible to do both. It is hard to believe that a nation that put men on the moon can't figure out a way to produce REE's without creating an environmental disaster.
wwqq
1 / 5 (2) Nov 21, 2010
Surely it is possible to do both.


You can't do that when China is heavily subsidizing their rare earth miners and has effectively nill red tape and environmental regulation for their miners to deal with.
dtxx
not rated yet Nov 21, 2010
Surely it is possible to do both.


You can't do that when China is heavily subsidizing their rare earth miners and has effectively nill red tape and environmental regulation for their miners to deal with.


Of course we CAN do it. Just be ready to pay $150,000 for your base model Prius.
geokstr
1 / 5 (2) Nov 21, 2010
Soylent Green was about OVER population so you can't even manage make things up to fit your fantasies.
Ethelred

Ethel the Red, check the propaganda from your own side. Overpopulation is still one of the tired old reasons being blamed for the pillage of Gaia, and the increase in CO2, because we deforest, and eat too many cows, and manufacture stuff, and exhale, etc, ad nauseum.

And please explain why the only solutions we are allowed to consider for AGW, assuming 1) it exists and 2) it wouldn't be a good thing, are every wet dream the left has ever had: turn over our sovereignty to the Collective, redistribute our wealth to the left's approved victim groups and third world toilets, and go back to a Stone Age economy. Everybody except the nomenklatura, of course, like algore. I'm sure you are confident you'll be one of the ruling class, too, so you won't have to ride a bicycle like the rest of us.
Eric_B
2.7 / 5 (3) Nov 22, 2010
You need to CAN IT!!!, those of you who can't have this discussion without resorting to the ol' "enviro-crazies" name calling.

If economics is all you care about take yourself and your family and move to Hanford, WA or Love Canal where land is real cheap.

The Chinese subsidize that mining with cash and with the lives of their workers (oooh, that sounds like Marxism!).

So, convince us that you would like to work in a Chinese style mine without GOVMINT REGALATIONS and that you have come up with a way to provide the product without subsidies. Otherwise the fanatically religious whiny shrill, "I'll let the market decide." sounds like nails on a chalkboard.

You can let the market decide the value of YOUR life or death by pollution and reap your cut of the class-action lottery minus legal fees when you get sick. It might pay for your casket but I would like to opt-out of that deal, if given a choice.

Eric_B
3 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2010
Determining how to provide the product in a way that is safe for workers and the environment and affordable (probably with some subsidies), that is the HARD WORK.

Whiny about how it's going to affect your stock portfolio (when YOU picked shares of polluters), that's easy while your duff is parked in it's comfy chair.
flying_finn
not rated yet Nov 22, 2010
Aluminum is the third most common element on earth. Refining bauxite is where the costs are. We recycle aluminum. Can't we have an effective recycle system for these rare earth elements?
Ethelred
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 22, 2010
Overpopulation is still one of the tired old reasons being blamed for the pillage of Gaia
Gaia isn't mine. Its a stupid idea. But high populations certainly contributes to pollution.
And please explain why the only solutions
I don't explain things I didn't say. Now for what you said - I just don't see the melting of the polar caps as a good thing.
turn over our sovereignty to the Collective
That is your fantasy not mine.
redistribute our wealth
Again that is your fantasy. Especialy the YOUR WEALTH part as I doubt you have wealth.
go back to a Stone Age economy
Is that as opposed what the RightWingNuts want? To go back to the Age of the Robber Barons?

See I can make up straw men too.

No, I don't want either of those. Geeks LIKE computers.
I'm sure you are confident you'll be one of the ruling class
You must be an idiot to think I won't notice that I didn't say any of those things.

Stick to what I said.

Ethelred
Ethelred
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 22, 2010
Can't we have an effective recycle system for these rare earth elements?


Generally they are used in very small amounts in any one product. Aluminum cans are easy to recycle for a reasonable cost. Trace amounts are hard.

There IS a way though. Expensive because it would take a lot of energy. Vaporize whatever detritus is left at the end of a recycling program and separate out the individual elements. Either that or scrape it clean of every LCD screen and a similar specialized method for EACH product.

Ethelred