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Research — Rare Earth Elements

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There are 4 projects that match your criteria:
Capillary Raman Cell Experiments: The rare earth elements are in hot water (and feeling salty)!
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Somewhere in the Earth’s crust a hot fluid is seeping through tiny cracks and fissures in the rock. The fluid is water and it carries with it a cargo of dissolved ions like chloride, sulfate, or carbonate. It might also carry dissolved metal ions useful to humans such copper, gold, or, in the case that we are considering, rare earth elements (REE). Fluids like this play important roles in forming ore deposits where the REE are present in high enough amounts to be mined. We want to understand how the REE interact with other dissolved ions and the water itself in order to better understand the conditions that allow water to mobilize, transport, or deposit REE.

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Rare Earth Element Critical Minerals Studied in a Hydrothermal Diamond Anvil Cell
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The world is changing fast. Advanced electronics such as smartphones and tablets are a staple of everyday life. Critical to these devices are the rare earth elements (REE). Unfortunately, the supply of REE around the world is limited, thus research into how REE mineral deposits form is needed to help guide us to new sources of these metals. One aspect of REE geochemistry that is not fully understood is how REE are transported in the hydrothermal fluids that form these deposits. How easily these elements can be transported depends upon the composition of the fluid and what ligands (negatively charged molecules) the REE elements bond to in the fluid, which is called complexation.

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Critical Minerals in Mine Wastes

There are tens of thousands of inactive mine features in 274 mining districts in New Mexico (including coal, uranium, metals, and industrial minerals districts). However, many of these mines have not been inventoried or prioritized for reclamation or reprocessing. Many of these mines have existing mine wastes, generated during mineral production, which could have potential for critical minerals, especially since the actual mineral production was generally for precious and base metals and not critical minerals. The purpose of this project is to inventory, characterize and estimate the critical mineral endowment of mine wastes using USGS sampling procedures. This project is important to the state of New Mexico because critical mineral resources must be identified before land exchanges, withdrawals or other land use decisions are made by government officials. Future mining of mine wastes that potentially contain critical minerals will directly benefit the economy of New Mexico. Possible re-mining and/or reprocessing of mine wastes could clean up these sites and pay for reclamation. Furthermore, this project will include training of younger, professional geologists and students in economic and reclamation geology by the PIs.

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REE in Coal and associated strata in the San Juan and Raton basins, New Mexico
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The Department of Energy has awarded New Mexico Tech a contract to examine rare earth elements (REE) and other critical minerals (CM) in coal and associated strata in the San Juan and Raton basins in northern New Mexico. Critical minerals are mineral resources that are essential to our economy and whose supply may be disrupted (/publications/periodicals/earthmatters/23/n1/em_v23_n1.pdf). Most CM are 100% imported into the U.S. Many CM are found in the San Juan and Raton basins of New Mexico.

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