Rare Earth Resources in the US

Last month I wrote about how China controls about 97% of the rare earth market. Some uses of rare earth elements include liquid-crystal displays on computer monitors and televisions, fiber optic cables, magnets, glass polishing, DVD and USB drives in the computer, catalytic converters, and petroleum cracking catalysts, batteries (the Prius uses 10 pounds of lanthanum), fluorescent lights, missiles, jet engines, and satellites. In other words, these elements are critical to our high-technology world.

The United States has rare earth resources, but except for Mountain Pass, California, these resources are not being exploited.

The United States Geological Survey has just published an assessment of U.S. resources. The report, Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5220 (4.2Mb), maybe be downloaded free. For an introduction and links to sections of the report, go here.

The report includes an overview of the geology and mineralogy of rare earth element deposits and gives a description of each domestic prospect.

The USGS estimates that domestic reserves and inferred resources are about 1.5 million tons which is large compared to the peak domestic consumption (in 2007) of 10,200 tons.

If you are interested in this subject, take a look.