Rare earth elements have become increasingly important for advanced technologies, from cell phones to renewable energy to defense systems. Mineral resources hosted in heavy mineral sand deposits are especially attractive because they can be recovered using well-established mechanical methods, making extraction, processing, and remediation relatively simple.
In their study just published online in the Geological Society of America Bulletin, A.K. Shah and colleagues examine rare earth mineral resource potential within heavy mineral sands in the southeastern United States.
Using geophysical and geochemical data that cover this very wide region, the team mapped the areas most likely to host accumulations of these minerals. Additionally, their analyses of co-minerals provide constraints on broad sedimentary provenance. These constraints suggest that a large percentage of the heavy mineral sands are derived from a relatively small part of the Piedmont province via coastal processes during Atlantic opening, and that a much smaller amount of heavy mineral sands are delivered via rivers and streams.
Rare earth mineral potential in the southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain from integrated geophysical, geochemical, and geological approaches A.K. Shah et al., U.S. Geological Survey, DFC MS 964, Box 25046, Denver, Colorado 80225, USA, [email protected]usgs.gov, DOI: 10.1130/B31481.1.