Open-file Report -
Beryllium resources in New Mexico and adjacent areas
Virginia T. Mclemore
Beryllium (Be) is a strategic element that is becoming more important in our technological society, because it is six times stronger than steel, has a high melting point, a high heat capacity, is non-sparking, is transparent to X-rays, and when alloyed with other metals it prevents metal fatigue failure. Beryllium is used in the defense, aerospace, automotive, medical, and electronics industries, in the cooling systems for nuclear reactors and as a shield in nuclear reactors. Beryllium deposits in Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico range from small (Apache Warm Springs, 39,063 metric tons Be, grade <0.26% Be) to world-class (Spor Mountain, 7,011,000 metric tons, grade 0.266% Be). In New Mexico, past production of beryl has been from pegmatites in Taos, Rio Arriba, Mora, San Miguel, and Grant Counties, with the majority of the beryl production from the Harding pegmatite, Taos County. Current drilling in the Apache Warm Springs deposit in the Sierra Cuchillo by BE Resources, Inc. has identified mineralized zones in altered rhyolite. The deposit is classified as volcanogenic beryllium deposit, also known as Spor Mountain Be-U-F or epithermal volcanic-hosted deposit. The Iron Mountain deposit, also in the Sierra Cuchillo south of the Apache Warm Springs deposit, is a contact metasomatic W-Be-Sn-Fe deposit in limestones adjacent to Tertiary rhyolites and granite. Additional exploration is underway for similar volcanic-hosted beryllium deposits in the Sierra Cuchillo and San Mateo Mountains, Socorro and Sierra Counties by BE Resources, Inc. W-Mo-Be skarn/vein deposits in Paleozoic dolostones, limestones, and sandstones were discovered in the Victorio Mountains, Luna County in the early 1900s. Gulf Minerals Resources, Inc. drilled 71 holes in 1977-1983 and delineated a porphyry Mo and W-Mo-Be skarn deposits northwest of Mine Hill and south of Middle Hills. At a cut-off grade of 0.02% WO3, resources were estimated as 57,703,000 tons of 0.129% Mo and 0.142% WO3. Open pit resources were estimated as 11,900,000 tons of 0.076% WO3 and 0.023% Be. Galway Resources Ltd. acquired the Victorio Mountains deposit in the late 1990s. Beryllium also is found in the nepheline syenite at Wind Mountain, Otero County and in the molybdenum porphyry deposit at Questa, Taos County, although not in economic concentrations. Tertiary rhyolites from Iron Mountain (Be-W-Sn-Fe skarn/replacement), Apache Warm Springs (volcanogenic Be deposit), Spor Mountain, UT (volcanogenic Be deposit) and granites from Victorio Mountains (WBe-Mo skarn/vein) associated with known beryllium mineralization are predominantly peraluminous to metaluminous, calc-alkalic to alkaline, high-Si (silica-saturated) A-type granites. The rhyolites/syenites associated with contact-metasomatic deposits at Aquachille, Mexico and Round Mountain, TX are peralkaline. Tectonic settings include subduction of lithospheric crust (i.e. volcanic arc) or extensional (i.e. Rio Grande rift, Great Basin). Limited geologic, chemical, and fluid inclusion data of some deposits suggest that these deposits were formed from cooling, mixing, and/or removal of beryllium from variable magmatic-hydrothermal and meteoric fluids. Wall-rock reaction, particularly with limestone or dolomite, appears to be important. Future production of beryllium from New Mexico will depend upon an increase in demand, possibly in the nuclear industry or in solar panels. It is unlikely that any of the beryllium deposits in New Mexico will be mined in the near future because the known deposits are small and low grade and the Spor Mountain deposit contains sufficient beryllium reserves to meet the expected demand in the next few years.
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