Rare Earth Elements Deposits in New Mexico

Organization: 

Publication Year: 

2014

Abstract: 

Deposits of rare earth elements (REE) are found in New Mexico, but they have not been important exploration targets in past years because demand has been met elsewhere. However, with the projected increase in demand and potential lack of available REE production from China, the New Mexico deposits are being re-examined for their potential. REE-Th-U veins are found in the Gallinas, Caballo, Capitan, and Cornudas Mountains and Laughlin Peak-Chico Hills. A small amount of bastnaesite, a REE mineral, was recovered during processing for fluorite from the Gallinas Mountains. Four types of deposits are found in the Gallinas Mountains: epithermal REE-F veins, Cu-REE-F veins, REE-F breccia pipes and iron skarn deposits; all are associated with Tertiary alkaline to alkalic-calcic igneous rocks. Resources amount to at least 537,000 short tons of 2.95% total REE (not NI-43-101 compliant; Schreiner, 1999). The abundant rare mineralogy in the Cornudas Mountains suggests that the area has potential for undiscovered deposits of REE, niobium, and zirconium. U.S. Borax sampled and drilled in the Chess Draw area (up to 0.06% total rare-earth oxides, 10-1400 ppm Nb, 10-3000 ppm Zr, 230-13,000 ppm F). Other types of REE deposits are found in New Mexico. Carbonatites are found in the Lemitar and Chupadera Mountains, Laughlin Peak-Chico Hills, Lobo Hill, and Monte Largo (Sandia Mountains). Disseminated Y-Zr deposits in syenite are found at Pajarito Mountain, Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation near Ruidoso. In 1990, Molycorp, Inc. reported historic resources of 2.7 million short tons grading 0.18% Y2O3 and 1.2% ZrO2 as disseminated eudialyte. Two additional deposit types have potential for REE in New Mexico: Cretaceous heavy mineral, beach-placer sandstone deposits and pegmatites. Exploration is ongoing in the Lemitar, Gallinas, and Cornudas Mountains. Many challenges face the mining industry in supplying REE. Most REE deposits are associated with radioactive waste material, which will require special handling. Future development of REE-based green technologies will be challenging and demand more research in many fields.

Document Type: 

  • Report

Tags: 

  • critical issues, database publication, critical minerals, mineral resources, new mexico