Can the U.S. Break China's REE Stranglehold?
Source: Fast Company, Ariel Schwartz (8/16/11)
"Miners are using everything from satellite technology to 'old-fashioned' prospecting to locate REE deposits. Still, there are hurdles for ambitious companies to jump through."
In the 1960s and 1970s, the USGS flew over the U.S., using airborne magnetometers to find anomalies in the Earth's magnetic field that could signify big rare earth deposits. In recent years, mining companies have taken it upon themselves to confirm the presence of these deposits. They use everything from satellite technology to "almost old-fashioned prospecting. They go out in the field looking for interesting rocks and minerals, and indications of spots of interest," says Gareth Hatch, Founding Principal of Technology Metals Research.
There are hurdles for ambitious companies to jump through. The U.S. used to produce rare earth metals at the Mountain Pass Mine in California, but it was shut down in 2002 largely because of lack of demand and environmental issues (the mine spilled a large amount of radioactive water into a neighboring lake). In 2008, Chevron sold the site to Molycorp, a company interested in reviving the old mine. Molycorp is currently expanding and modernizing the mine--a process that will yield 40,000 metric tons of rare earths by 2013, or 25% of the world's supply. . .View full article