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Mineral exploration and high-tech goods

January 21, 2011

Lanthanum, europium and neodymium: these rare earth minerals play an important role in clean power generation. Rare earth minerals are naturally occurring metallic elements that are used worldwide in tiny amounts to manufacture many of the high tech goods that we are so dependent on today.

These minerals hold particular chemical and physical characteristics which make them essential to the high-tech industry. The increase in high-tech toys has nearly doubled the demand for rare earth minerals since the last decade.

To fulfill this need, mineral exploration and drilling must be used to extract these elements from the earth.

Accuracy of a name
While these necessary minerals are labelled “rare earth elements”, the British Geological Survey compares the available quantity of these elements to that of lead and copper.

Near production monopoly
China owns approximately 35% of the estimated world reserves of these rare earth minerals (36 million tonnes in comparison to the United States’ 13 million tonnes); in addition, China controls about 97% of the production and transformation capacity of these rare earth minerals.

In the fall of 2010, China began limiting exportation of these prized mineral (as of October 2010, China had reduced its exportation of rare earth elements by some 70% from 2009); for countries that rely on these minerals to remain competitive in the high tech world, cuts in exportations could have huge repercussions.

Desert mineral reserves
The Mojave Desert, located in California, may hold the key that will release the United States from its dependence on another nation to supply it with rare earth minerals.

This desert is home to a mine that holds the minerals that have become essential to the high tech world. This mine, shut down since 2002 when the United States relinquished the rare minerals exploration market to China, is the biggest known rare earth elements deposit outside of China.

Increasing demand
The world’s demand of rare earth minerals is 125,000 metric tonnes per year. Educated guesses place the demand for these minerals at 205,000 metric tonnes by 2015, some 80,000 tonnes more than the current demand. The Mojave Desert mine, producing at total capacity, is believed to be capable of turning out 20,000 metric tonnes a year; a tad more than the United States’ present demand.

Complex knowledge
In spite of the fact that sufficient rare earth minerals may exist on US soil, it is unclear whether the country has obtained enough knowledge and expertise to successfully alter the critical minerals into serviceable components for the manufacturing of high tech devices.

One of the largest and most challenging markets in the industrial drilling industry, mineral exploration is dependent on a number of factors such as geologic conditions, operator requirements, drilling methods and environmental concerns. These and other factors stress the importance of using the proper drilling fluids and well drilling supplies. PVC Plus Drilling Products has the solution for reduced core recovery or problematic hole conditions. For more information contact PVC Plus Drilling Products.

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