Grant to enable study of rare earth elements

By Staff

G. Lang Farmer, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and a fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, has received a U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Resources External Research Program (MRERP) grant to study rare earth elements (REE) and Niobium. He shares the grant with Matt Joeckel and Richard Kettler of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Grant recipients will conduct a collaborative research project to examine the age and origin of the REE resources of the Elk Creek deposit in southeastern Nebraska by investigating previously collected drilling core. The Elk Creek REE deposit is found in a rare carbonate-rich igneous rock known as carbonatite. In addition to REEs, the Elk Creek carbonatite may comprise the largest niobium resource in the United States. Niobium is primarily used as an alloying element in steels and superalloys, such as materials used in high performance aircraft. This research is expected to yield data and information that will advance exploration and assessment models for similar REE deposits.

“Although the U.S. is currently dependent on foreign imports for our supply of rare earths and other critical elements that are essential for the high tech industry, our nation is actually rich in deposits of these valuable minerals,” explained USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “The Mineral Research Grants help provide the basic research foundation to better develop our domestic resources and thus become less dependent on foreign imports.”