Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals, minerals, and fuels 1972
Year 1972, Volume 1 (1972)
Kennedy, James S.; Jolly, James H.
Rare-earth minerals and metals, pp. 1075-1083 ff. PDF (1.0 MB)
1075Rare-Earth Minerals and Metals By James S. Kennedy1 and James H. Jolly2 The rare-earth industry in 1972 was highlighted by planned expansion of production facilities, increased demand for rare-earth products, changes in demand patterns, and promising technological developments. The Molybdenum Corp. of America (Molycorp) announced plans to expand its bastnaesite mill at Mountain Pass, Calif. Titanium Enterprise's facilities for production of byproduct monazite near Green Cove Springs, Fla., were completed and went on stream late in the year. Shipments from rare-earth chemical processors increased and, for the first time in the history of the industry, metallurgical consumption surpassed that of the petroleum industry as the largest market for rare-earth products. The growing metallurgical demand for mischmetal prompted the Aluminum Co. of America (Alcoa) to enter the industry in a joint venture with Molycorp. Worldwide, Australia, India, Brazil, and Malaysia remained the leading producers of monazite concentrates. Export destina tions of the Australian material changed markedly during the year. Production of rare-earth compounds and metals appeared adequate to meet market demand although mischmetal was reported in short supply in the United Kingdom. Mischmetal producers in Western Europe were reportedly prepared to expand capacity, estimated at 1,500 tons per year, in order to meet growing market requirements. Legislation and Government Programs.— At the end of 1972, the General Services Administration (GSA) held a total of 11,817 short tons (dry) of rare earth oxide (REO) equivalent in the national (9,714 tons) and supplemental (2,103 tons) stockpiles, compared with 11,841 tons at the end of 1971. Although 1,250 tons of REO content was authorized for disposal in 1972, less than 27 tons of REO contained in bastnaesite was sold during the year. In addition several test samples of rare-earth chloride from the stockpile were provided to industry. DOMESTIC PRODUCTION Concentrate.—The Mountain Pass, Calif., operation of Molycorp produced 11,802 tons of REO in flotation concentrate from 228,488 tons of bastnaesite ore mined and milled. Production was sluggish at the beginning of the year but was near capacity during the fourth quarter. In anticipation of increased demand, a $850,000 expansion program was announced in January 1973, to increase mill and flotation capacity by 50% to 30,000 tons REO annually. The new facilities are expected to be on stream in August 1973.3 Molycorp acquired options on several tracts of land in Johnson and Pawnee Counties in southeastern Nebraska, where test drilling in the Elk Creek carbonatite showed the presence of rare-earth minerals, among others. Analysis of the test hole drilled in 1971 by a survey team from the University of Nebraska, with support from the Bureau of Mines, revealed the presence of up to 1.1% cerium, 0.34% lanthanum, and traces of europium.4 Humphreys Mining Co. continued recovery of byproduct monazite from a beach sand deposit controlled by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., near Folkston, Georgia. 1 Industry economist, formerly with the Division of Nonferrous Metals. 2 Physical scientist, Division of Nonferrous Metals. Molybdenum Corporation of America. 1972 Annual RepOrt. Mar. 12, 1973, 12 pp. Treves, Samuel B., Russell Smith, Marrin P. Carlson, and George Cohen. The Elk Creek Carbonatite, Johnson and Pawnee Counties, Nebraska. Abs. with Programs, Geol. Soc. Amer., v. 4, No. 4, February 1972, p. 297.
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