Rare Earths and the Potential for Rare-earth Deposits in Canada

Exploration & Mining Geology, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1992

W.D. SINCLAIR Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, J.L. JAMBOR, CANMET, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, T.C. BIRKETT Geological Survey of Canada, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Canada

The rare-earth elements (REE) form a significant part of the group of so-called "high-technology" metals whose glamour has attracted both the scientific community and the mining industry. Despite this attraction, world production of REE declined abruptly in 1985 and only recently has begun to approach production levels of 1984. The decline in 1985 was primarily due to decreased demand for light REE used as catalysts in the production of lead-bearing gasoline. Incorporated within the current trend toward increased production of REE is an increasing demand for higher value elements such as yttrium and other members of the heavy REE group, and for specific REE rather than mixed products. The former demand has made some Canadian deposits and prospects economically attractive despite a surplus of REE reserves on a world scale. The chief attractions of Canadian deposits such as Strange Lake, Labrador-Quebec, Thor Lake, Northwest Territories, and Kipawa, Quebec, are that they are relatively rich in yttrium and other heavy REE compared to light REE, and that they offer a potential security of supply to counterbalance the rapidly escalating dominance of China in the world market.