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The Agence France-Presse reports that global demand for so-called “rare earth” minerals may outstrip supply sometime next year, primarily because the world’s top producer, China, is set to slash exports. Rare earths are critical to technology these days, showing up in everything from flat-panel televisions to iPhones to ecological hybrid cars and solar panels.
As that report was issued, the U.S. Geological Survey released its first-ever national assessment of the materials, saying that some 13 million metric tons exist in 14 states, including two locations in Colorado. Those include the Iron Hill Carbonatite Complex near the town of Powderhorn, about 22 miles southwest of Gunnison, and in the West Mountains in Fremont and Custer counties, according to the Denver Business Journal. The deposits have the potential to be mined, say officials, although right now, there is just one rare-earth mine in the entire United States: Mountain Pass Mine in California, which belongs to Denver-based Molycorp Inc.
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U.S. Congressman Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, introduced a bill earlier this year calling for the creation of a national security stockpile of rare earths along with guarantees of loans for companies seeking to mine and process them in the U.S. “The USGS report released today is proof that the United States has sufficient rare-earth deposits to support a healthy and robust domestic supply chain,” Coffman says in a statement. “While the confirmation of significant deposits of rare earths is encouraging, we will continue to be reliant upon the Chinese for our rare-earth needs unless we take action. From renewable-energy technologies, to consumer electronics, and even our nation’s most advanced defense-weapons systems are highly dependent upon a continued and robust supply of rare earths.”
Read the entire USGS report here.