Global Rare Earth Reserves Sufficient for Current Needs–USGS
Source: Mineweb, Dorothy Kosich (10/9/09)
"USGS says plenty of global resources exist that can meet needs well into the 21st Century."
In the advance release of a USGS minerals yearbook article, USGS scientists advised, "As research and technology continue to advance the knowledge of rare earths and their interactions with other elements, the economic base of the rare-earth industry is expected to continue to grow."
"New applications are expected to continue to be discovered and developed, especially in areas that are considered essential, such as energy and defense," the agency said.
The world's major supplier of rare earth metals, China, is increasingly withholding rare earth metals for its own needs. Meanwhile, in the U.S. the last of government's stock of rare earths in the National Defense Stockpile was shipped in 1998. Rare Earth elements are unique in many electronic, optical and magnetic military applications. The USGS advised that national defense material requirements "may necessitate the inclusion of rare earths, including scandium and yttrium, in the NDS at a future date."
"[China's] combination of rising costs and tighter control on exports, however, is alarming companies worldwide, including U.S. weapons makers and Pentagon officials."
Rare earth producers outside of China are generating less than 5% of the world's supply, the USGS noted. They are expected to continue to struggle to remain competitive with China's lower wages, inexpensive utilities and less restrictive environmental and permitting requirements.
However, the USGS suggests, "Increasing prices, export limits, rising demand within China, and a ban on new mining permits were expected to make rare-earth deposits outside of China more economic."
The USGS has visited or researched rare earths deposits for Colorado, Idaho and Montana, Missouri, Utah and Wyoming.
The agency also examined deposits and projects, as well as rare-earth metal industrial manufacturing processes in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Japan, Malawi, Malaysia and Zambia.
Their conclusion: "World reserves are sufficient to meet forecast world consumption well into the 21st Century."