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Index / Mining & Minerals - Evaluations / Rare Earth Exploration, Mining, Processing, Uses

6/14/2017 by mdc
Zhehan Weng et al., report that in 2015 the global rare earth oxides (REO) market was dominated by Chinese production, which peaked in 2006 at 133,000 tonnes REO per year, accounting for some 97.1% of global production, causing concern about the long-term supply of REE resources. Although the REE consist of 17 individual elements (15 lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium) that are hosted by numerous types of mineralization, the relatively modest scale of the global REE mining sector has limited our knowledge of REE mineral resources and mineralizing systems compared to metals such as copper and iron, which are produced in much larger quantities.

In order to quantitatively analyze the mineralogy, concentrations, and geologic types of REE deposits, they compiled a global dataset of REE mineral resources based on the most recently available data (2013 to 2014). This compilation yields minimum global contained total rare earth oxides plus yttrium oxide (TREO + Y) resources of 619.5 Mt split between 267 deposits.

Deposits with available grade and tonnage data (260 of the 267 deposits in our database) contain some 88,483 Mt of mineral resources at an average concentration of 0.63% TREO + Y, hosting 553.7 Mt TREO + Y. Of the 267 total deposits in our database, some 160 have mineral resources reported using statutory mining codes (e.g., JORC, NI43-101, SAMREC), with the remaining 107 projects having CRIRSCO-noncompliant mineral resources that are based on information available in the industry literature and peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Approximately 51.4% of global REO resources are hosted by carbonatite deposits, and bastnasite, monazite, and xenotime are the three most significant REE minerals, accounting for more than 90% of the total resources. In terms of REE resources by individual country, China dominates currently known TREO + Y resources (268.1 Mt), accounting for 43% of the global REO resources within their database.

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