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Rare Earths and Metals Article by Resouce World


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Rare earth elements and rare metals explained by Jennifer S. Getsinger, PhD, PGeo. Article discusses companies in the space, including an overview of Commerce Resources (TSXv:CCE) properties and assets.

Published in: Economy & Finance

Rare Earths and Metals Article by Resouce World

  1. 1. Rare earth elements and rare metals by Jennifer S. Getsinger, PhD, PGeo. The simple life of the Stone Age required only stone tools made of broken rocks. With the Iron Age came the complexity of knives, war, and forging. Mining really got going with the Bronze Age (tin, copper). Almost all of the known mining areas of Europe were discovered by the Romans. Refined steel, petroleum, and aluminum have defined the modern industrial age. Through all human history, the love of pre- lithium, there would be less treatment for bipo- cious metals (gold, silver, platinum) has lar disorder and less possibility for electric and woven a thread of art, beauty, culture, hybrid automobiles and certainly less twitter- and greed. The first metals mined were the ing on cell phones (see May 2009 RW for article easiest to extract from the Earth: magnetic on lithium). iron, gold nuggets from streams, soft cop- The rare earth elements (REE) are usually per from veins. The industrial and military defined as the special section of the periodic advances of the past two centuries have table known as the lanthanide metals or lan- progressed with improvements in mining thanides, from lanthanum (#57) to lutetium technology. Scientists have found new uses (#71), and also yttrium (#39), totaling 15 for each element discovered. Without the chemically similar elements that occur in many discovery of radioactive elements like ura- common rocks in small amounts. Promethium nium, there would be no nuclear warheads, no (Pm, #61), is generally not included due to X-rays, no medical isotopes, no radiometric dat- lack of stable isotopes and zero natural occur- ing with its story of the immense time involved rence. The light rare earth elements (LREE) in Earth history, no sorrowful wastelands like are commonly defined as La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm, Hiroshima and Nagasaki or Chernobyl, no with the first four the most abundant. The living with constant dread of the bomb, no heavy rare earth elements (HREE) are con- hope of curing cancer. sidered more valuable as they are rarer, and With each new technological tool and min- are defined by the U.S. Geological Survey eral extraction technique come new prospects as Gd, Tb, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm, Yb, and Lu; and for the mining business, new definitions of ore commonly also included with this group are (earth materials that can be mined for a profit), Eu and Y, due to their similar properties and new facets of progress, new dangers. If not for occurrence. The lanthanides are all reactive, europium from the rare earth element mined silvery grey, soft metals ranging in specific in the Mountain Pass carbonatite intrusion in gravity from 4.4 to 9.8 g/cm3, and vary in California, colour television would never have crustal abundance from cerium, at 60 ppm as been affordable. The computer on which this common as copper, to thulium and lutetium, article was composed contains commodities the at 0.5 ppm the least abundant rare earths, Romans never even imagined, in addition to yet more abundant than silver. Uses for each the age-old useful metals they did know about depend on their unique chemical properties. (iron, copper, gold). Without the refinement of Study of the rare earth elements (REE) is 6 August 2009
  2. 2. ExploRIng foR METAlS of ThE fuTuRE essential to an understanding of the petrol- well as small permanent magnets. Below is a ogy of igneous rocks, and contributes to selection of companies involved in rare met- various processes of radiometric dating als and rare earths. and research into the origins of the uni- verse. But mere curiosity is not enough to Adex Mining Inc. [ADE-TSXV] is spark mining. This is where colour moni- “reaching new heights at Mount Pleasant, tors and emerging electronic devices and North America’s largest tin deposit and their expanding markets instigated devel- the world’s largest (known) reserve of opment of affordably mining these unusual indium,” located in New Brunswick. Adex elements. plans to reactivate former producer, the The United States used to produce all of Mount Pleasant tungsten-molybdenum its rare earth elements from mines such as mine, as well as to develop the related tin- Mountain Pass in California near the Nevada indium-zinc deposit of the North Zone. In border (conveniently located between its April 2009, Adex announced a NI 43-101 customers, the television producers of Los compliant indicated mineral resource esti- Angeles and the neon and rare element mate of 10.88 million tonnes of Sn-In-(Zn) phosphored fluorescent lights of Las Vegas), ore (0.43% Sn, 67.8 grams indium/tonne, but environmental concerns about radio- 0.67% zinc, and lesser tungsten, moly, arse- active components such as monazite and nic, copper and bismuth) at a cut-off grade competition from less costly mining meth- of 0.25% tin-equivalent (calculated using ods and deposits in China shut it down. Vast tin and indium but not zinc values), and a resources of “ion-adsorption” ore in tropi- price of indium of US $500/kg. Indium is cally weathered granitic rocks of southern used in thin-film coatings for solar panels China, where in-place concentration of rare and in LCD monitors such as those on com- earth metal cations in kaolinite provides puters and flat-screen televisions. low grade, but bulk mineable deposits of Argentex Mining Corp. [ATX-TSXV] is yttrium and the middle REEs, as well as a Vancouver junior mining company with bastnasite production as a by-product of a cast of local star geologists including the Bayan Obo iron mine of inner Mongolia, Kenneth Hicks (president), Colin Godwin, have supplanted most other world suppliers Jenna Hardy, and others. Its flagship of lanthanides. However, reborn as a private Pinguino property in southern Argentina is company, Molycorp Minerals is now work- a “unique indium-bearing silver polymetal- ing on reviving mining at Mountain Pass as lic” (silver-indium-zinc-lead-gold) deposit well as manufacturing magnets. Molycorp (copper and tin are also present). Holding is expecting renewed local support due to mineral rights to 35 properties in the strategic concerns regarding rare metals. 60-kilometre northwest-striking Tranquilo World market for rare metals and lan- Trend, Argentex is in a good position to thanides can only increase with the present help meet the growing demand for indium trend toward the proliferation of personal from the green-energy sector and Japanese music and electronic devices and green tech- display technology applications. nology transportation – all requiring smaller Avalon Rare Metals Inc. [AVL-TSXV] and more powerful rechargeable batteries as recently announced additional promising TOP: Project Geologist Angie Martin downloads data on rainfall, sun, snow, wind speed and direction from the weather station into her computer at the Avalon Ventures Thor Lake Project Northwest Territories. Photo by Chris Pederson. BOTTOM: Danny Gorham and Doug McDonagh of Dahrouge Geological prepare for field work on Commerce Resources Blue River Tantalum-Niobium Project in eastern British Columbia, Canada. Photo courtesy Commerce resource Corp. REFER TO TABLE OF ELEMENTS PAGE 55. August 2009 7
  3. 3. assays from its Thor Lake (NWT) REE proj- and sampling. Thirty-six samples contained (see March 2008 RW for details). Gallium is ect, including highlight drill hole L09-152 anomalously REE concentrations. A summer a soft metal up to its melting point at 30°C, with its high-grade Basal Zone intercept of exploration program is underway consisting but it doesn’t boil until it reaches 2403°C. 2.96% total rare earth oxides (TREO), 37.6% of geological mapping, soil and rock geo- It’s used widely in the electronics industry, of that consisting of heavy rare earth oxides chemical sampling, and trenching. and is increasing in demand. (HREO: Eu to Lu, and Y), over 11.6 metres; Commerce Resources Corp. [CCE-TSXV; Great Western Minerals Group [GWG- and within that intercept, 2.3 metres grad- D7H-FSE] focuses on tantalum, niobium, TSXV] is “forging the link in the rare earth ing 4.41% TREO with 28.7% HREO. Various and other rare metals in carbonatites, element mine-to-market chain” – intending, phases of Precambrian granitoid rocks and especially at the Upper Fir deposit at their like Molycorp Minerals, to bring both min- pegmatites on the property contain sev- Blue River Project in British Columbia, ing and production in this business back to eral mineralized zones, featuring other rare and their new Eldor prospect in Québec, North America. Although Great Western metals such as zirconium, niobium, tanta- which is enriched in phosphorus, ura- and Molycorp decided on June 15, 2009 lum, gallium, and beryllium, concentrated nium, and rare earth elements in addition not to go ahead with the amalgamation they in hydrothermal mineral assemblages of to tantalum and niobium. The discovery of were negotiating, their goals remain the LREE-bearing bastnasite, monazite, allan- purple fluorite “points to the multi-com- same, to become vertically integrated rare ite, and synchisite, and HREE-bearing modity potential of the Eldor Property,” earth metal miners to producers. monazite and zircon, as well as the yttrium according to their website, which quotes The flagship property of Great Western niobium–tantalum solid solution mineral fer- David Hodge, President of Commerce. He Minerals Group is at Hoidas Lake, gusonite-formanite; and beryllium-enriched predicts the Upper Fir Project could have a Saskatchewan, in a former uranium mining silicate phenacite, among others. mine life of more than 15 years with annual area, where 10 kilometres of fault struc- Previously considered by several min- production of tantalum reaching 1 million tures through Precambrian granitic rocks ing companies for mining individual pounds (about 450 tonnes). are rife with veins containing mineralized compounds, and then dropped for economic Resource estimates for Upper Fir deposit apatite and allanite, a phosphate and an and/or complicated extraction reasons, the in a 2007 NI 43-101 report show it to be the epidote mineral, respectively, that can host chemically complex Thor Lake Project is largest deposit of tantalum mineralization in both lanthanides and radioactive elements, being re-evaluated by Avalon in terms of the area. Using a cut-off grade of 100 grams with more than 30 known REE showings. its metallic diversity in the light of increas- Ta2O5/tonne, indicated resources are esti- Drill results reported many intersections ing demand for a variety of these elements, mated at 23.1 million tonnes of 177 grams with greater than 3% TREO (including Y), especially neodymium and dysprosium for Ta2O5/tonne and 1145 grams Nb2O5/tonne, including local zones up to more than 6% the extra-strong magnets needed in mul- and inferred resource estimate at 13.3 mil- TREO (including Y). At the prefeasibility tiple electronic devices. Avalon has other lion tonnes of 178 grams Ta2O5/tonne and stage, resources at Hoidas Lake, accord- properties on hold, such as the Separation 1149 grams Nb2O5/tonne, consistent with ing to a Wardrop Engineering NI 43-101 Rapids lithium-tantalum project, and the previous estimates from the property area. report, using a 1.5 wt.% total rare earth Lilypad Lake pegmatite, enriched in tanta- Tantalum and niobium are hosted mainly in oxide (TREO) cutoff grade, are: measured – lum, cesium, rubidium, and lithium, both the reddish mineral pyrochlore; high phos- 123,000 tonnes of 2.956 wt.% TREO (+Y); in Ontario. Avalon’s East Kemptville, NS, phorus is assumed to come from apatite in indicated – 430,000 tonnes of 2.762 wt.% project hosts an old tin mine prospective for the report, but given anomalous thorium TREO (+Y); inferred – 812,000 tonnes of indium (element #49, periodic table column (Th), some monazite might also be present, 2.445 wt.% TREO (+Y). IIIA below gallium), used in semiconductors, which could also host the elevated REE val- Great Western has also begun work on transparent conductive coatings on glass, in ues. In preliminary exploration, the Carbo two other REE properties in Canada, at the LEDs, and various medical and other indus- property north of Prince George, BC, also Douglas River property in the Athabasca trial applications. See Avalon’s presentation exhibits anomalous tantalum, niobium, and Basin (also in a Saskatchewan uranium on its website ( rare earth elements. exploration area) where xenotime min- for a page on metal prices. Gold Canyon Resources Inc. [GCU- eralization promises to yield yttrium, Canadian International Minerals Inc. TSXV] features three gold properties in the and the HREEs dysprosium, and erbium; [CIN-TSXV] holds an option to earn a 75% Red Lake, Ontario, district: the Springbole, and at the Benjamin River Project, New interest from Commerce Resources Corp. Horseshoe, and Favourable Lake projects. Brunswick. These projects are prospective in the road-accessible rare earth element Their other two projects are the Kratz for the critical, heavy rare earth element (REE) property 80 kilometres northeast of Spring iron-oxide/copper-gold +/- REE components of high temperature, perma- Prince George, central British Columbia. deposit joint venture with JOGMEC in nent magnets used particularly in hybrid Commerce conducted an exploration pro- Missouri, and the Cordero Gallium Project vehicles. GWG also holds a 25% interest gram in 2006 that included soil sampling, in northwestern Nevada. It’s the largest in the Deep Sands Glacial Lake Bonneville scintillometer and magnetometer surveys, primarily gallium project in North America Beach deposit in Utah, which is being 8 August 2009
  4. 4. explored for its concentration of rare earth elements in the heavy magnetite layers. Houston Lake Mining Corp. [HLM-TSXV] focuses on valuable metals in northwest Ontario with its near-pro- duction West Cedartree Gold Project, its platinum group property at Tib Lake, and its rare metals Pakeagama Lake Project, near Red Lake. Located near the Manitoba Tanco Mine area, the Pakeagama alkaline intrusive complex pegmatite hosts rare metals tantalum, rubidium, lithium (in petalite), and cesium, with lesser niobium, tin, thal- lium, and gallium. Hudson Resources Inc. [HUD-TSXV] has completed first phase explorations of its 100%-owned Sarfartoq carbonatite project in Greenland, which host REEs plus niobium and tantalum. IBC Advanced Alloys Corp. [IB-TSXV], based in Vancouver, is another company set on mine-to-market integration, with a focus on beryllium and non-ferrous alloys, and also owns successful manufacturing sub- Diamond drilling at Rare Element’s Bear Lodge Rare Earths Project in Wyoming, USA, sidiaries in the U.S. IBC has dominant share positions where hole RES 08-3 returned 170 feet of 4.12% Rare Earth Oxides in 2008. Photo as well in beryllium deposits in Uganda, the U.S. and courtesy Rare Element Resources Ltd. Brazil, including the former producing Boomer Mine of Colorado. At IBC’s currently producing Spor Mine, adjacent to the Brush Wellman mines and beryllium production plant in Delta, Utah, beryllium occurs in pegmatite minerals such as bertrandite, an alteration of beryl. Beryllium, a light metal with a high melting temperature, is used in cooling systems and shields in nuclear reactors, as well as other industrial and mili- tary applications. Mainstream Minerals Corp. [MJO-TSXV] and part- ner King’s Bay Gold Corp. [KBG-TSXV] operate a few exploration properties in northwestern Ontario near Red Lake, including the Bobjo Project, targeting gold, rare metals, and rare earth elements. Multi-element analyses posted on their website show typical crustal abundances of most elements, with some elevated gold values. Matamec Explorations Inc. [MAT-TSXV] is keen to complete a resource report soon on their Zeus REE- Y-Zr property in the Temiskaming area of Québec. The Kipawa Alkaline Complex hosts several rare metal-bearing minerals such as eudialyte and britho- lite. Matamec, led by REE expert Antony Mariano, is building on exploration work started by Unocal in the 1980s. Mexivada Mining Corp. [MNV-TSXV] has pros- pects in Mexico, Nevada, and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) seeking gold, silver, diamond, tellurium, molybdenum, uranium, and joint venture partners. Projects targeting the tellurium include the Moly Dome and Jefferson projects in Nevada, and the AuroTellurio Project near Moctezuma, Sonora, Mexico, all of which August 2009 9
  5. 5. are precious metal prospects with gold-sil- metallurgical test results on oxide samples ver-tellurium mineralization. Element #52, from the 100%-owned Bear Lodge prop- Te is the rarest stable solid element in the erty. Tests on near-surface oxide material Earth’s crust at a crustal abundance of 1 to from three 2008 holes gave a range of 5 ppb (lower than platinum). It is increas- recoveries and concentrate grades, from ingly used in cadmium telluride solar panel 70% recovery with a grade 14.25% rare technologies. According to Mexivada, the earth oxide to 90% recovery with a con- price of tellurium has increased from US centrate grade of 9.2% REO. $10 to more than US $300/kilogram. Sarissa Resources Inc. [SRSR-TSXV] is Niocan Inc. [NIO-TSX] is revitalizing the rejuvenating the Nemegosenda niobium idea of mining niobium (aka columbium) at property in Ontario under the leadership the old St. Lawrence Columbium (SLC) Mine of Scott Keevil and Alan Hawke (see May (1960-1976) in Oka, Québec, hosted by the 2009 issue of RW). Phase II exploration is Oka complex carbonatite. Once it gets going, underway, consisting of further diamond annual production is expected to be 4,500 drilling of the D Zone. tonnes of ferroniobium from 892,000 tonnes Ucore Uranium Inc. [UCU-TSXV] has of ore grading 0.63% Ni2O5. taken over an area around the former Quest Uranium Corp. [QUC-TSXV] has uranium producing Ross Adams Mine added rare earth elements to its uranium- in the Alaska Panhandle on the south tip dominated portfolio at the old Iron Ore of Prince of Wales Island (southwest of Company’s Strange Lake deposit at the bor- Ketchikan, northwest of Prince Rupert) der of Québec and Labrador. With known and is developing plans for a new uranium resources of 52 megatonnes of 3.25% ZrO2, and rare metals mine at its flagship Bokan 0.64% Y2O3, 0.56% Nb2O5, 1.3% TREO, Mountain property, with “near term and 0.12% BeO, Quest has discovered production potential.” Containing approx- additional HREE and uranium showings imately 5,000 tonnes of uranium and that warrant further exploration. additional niobium, tantalum, zirconium, “Targeting gold and rare earth elements,” beryllium, and REEs, the Bokan Mountain Rare Element Resources Ltd. [RES-TSXV] property hosts one of the largest com- was recently upgraded to a Tier One com- bined light and heavy rare earth element pany on the Venture Exchange. It recently deposits, according to the U.S. Geological reported the Sundance Gold Joint Venture Survey. The Bokan intrusive complex is a between its subsidiary, Paso Rico (USA) Jurassic peralkaline ring dyke with radial Inc., and Newmont North America veins hosting uranium and rare metal min- Exploration Ltd. in the Bear Lodge area of eralization. n Wyoming was permitted to go ahead with expanded drilling. This also allows for further exploration and evaluation of rare earth element targets in the Bull Hill area. According to a previous report by the U.S. Geological Survey quoted by Donald Ranta, President/CEO of Rare Element Resources, the Bear Lodge property “encompasses one of the largest dissemi- nated rare-earth occurrences in North America.” The main ore mineral is bast- nasite with primarily LREE, especially lanthanum and cerium. Earlier exploration by other companies estimated resources around 4 million tonnes of about 3.8% TREO, which the company expects to con- firm in the coming field seasons. Rare Element reported encouraging REE 10 August 2009