February 4, 2010 – SALT LAKE CITY–(BUSINESS WIRE)– U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. (www.usrareearths.com), a privately owned company, announced today that its rare earth element deposits in Idaho and Montana were listed as among the nation’s most important domestic deposits in the annual listing of the worldwide distribution of rare earth element deposits, produced by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the federal government’s scientific fact-finding agency covering natural resources.
U.S. Rare Earths’ Chief Executive Officer Edward Cowle explained that rare earth elements have become increasingly common in high technology equipment including:
- computer hard drives and cellular phones
- MRI machines
- environmental products such as electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels
- military weapons, including the electronic controls and electric motors used in missiles
U.S.-based production for these important manufacturing and military applications may be in jeopardy because China currently supplies the majority of rare earth elements that are used in these applications.
According to James Hedrick, former USGS rare earths commodity specialist, the world currently has only one principal source of these elements, the People’s Republic of China. However, China recently indicated it is considering stopping the export of the heavy rare earths, which are the specific critical metals for producing high temperature-operating permanent magnets.
“Even the possibility of such a supply interruption,” he added, “has already caused a crisis that has highlighted our dependence for the security of our supply of the heavy rare earths on an economic competitor.”
In addition, Hedrick said, “U.S. Rare Earths’ analytical data indicates that it is the only domestic resource that has significant heavy rare earths.”
The U.S. Rare Earths properties include:
- Diamond Creek, in southeast Idaho’s Webster Range;
- and a 600-acre site in the Lehmi Pass, at an elevation of about 7,200 feet on the Continental Divide, between Idaho and the Bitterroot Range of Montana.
According to the company’s data accepted by the USGS in a study released last September, U.S. Rare Earths’ holdings show high concentrations of individual rare earths of both the yttrium-heavy rare earths group and the cerium-light rare earths group. They were measured with approximate concentrations of yttrium occurring as high as 0.36%, cerium measured approximately 2%, lanthanum approximately 1%, neodymium as high as 1.4%, praseodymium as high as 0.30%, samarium as high as 0.38%, europium as high as 0.08%, gadolinium as high as 0.20%, terbium as high as 0.03%, and dysprosium as high as 0.11%.
Mountain Pass, in California’s Mojave Desert on the Nevada border, was a major source of rare earth elements and in the recent past made the United States largely self sufficient in these essential elements. However, in 2002, Mountain Pass production ceased. Currently, Mountain Pass refines only concentrates remaining from its last mining production in 2002.
China has—as does Diamond Creek and Lemhi Pass—two heavy rare earths that are in particularly short supply: dysprosium and terbium. These “heavy” rare earth elements have critical uses, ones for which there are few substitutes.
- Dysprosium is used in magnets in electric motors.
- Terbium and other rare earths help cut the electric usage of lighting by about 80 percent.
China—as well as Diamond Creek and Lemhi Pass—also contain another of the rare earth metals in particular demand: neodymium.
In 1982, a General Motors corporate division, which has since been sold and relocated to China, discovered a neodymium alloy that constituted the light, tough, cost-effective permanent magnet which replaced heavy magnetized iron in electric motor applications. Since the sale to the Chinese, these rare-earth magnets have no longer been produced in the USA. The entire supply chain is now in the People’s Republic of China.
Both of China’s rare earth areas—its Bayan Obo mines at the northern part of Inner Mongolia and its southern ionic-clay mines in southeastern China—are known for their significant quantities of ore.
Jack Lifton, a leading mineral resource analyst, and editor of the Jack Lifton Report, said: “The Diamond Creek property is not only the most undeveloped rare earth resource in North America today, it is also highly accessible for mining and is located in Idaho, which is a mining-friendly state.”
Rare earth elements have much less tendency to become concentrated in exploitable ore deposits. Consequently most of the world’s supply comes from only a few sources.
Edward Cowle said: “U.S. Rare Earths is the only large rare earth venture in the United States that has accessible and mineable supplies of the strategic heavy rare earths. Our deposits could supply the current and projected demand of the United States military and civilian green industries and would eliminate the dependence the United States currently has on Chinese sources.”
The link for USGS Mineral Commodity Summary for Rare Earths for January 2010 is: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/rare_earths/mcs-2010-raree.pdf
For more information about U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. please visit: http://www.usrareearths.com/eco/index.php
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