The Sierra Blanca Range in Texas is currently the site of exploratory drilling that could pave the way for major mining operations of rare earth minerals. China presently produces almost all of the world’s rare earths, and North American companies are scrambling to develop local sources of the metals.
The Texas project is moving forward with great speed and scope, and is focused now on Round Top Mountain, a 5,732-foot peak in the Sierra Blanca Range. As of late 2011, Texas Rare Earth Resources, the company pursuing the project, said it had completed about 17,000 feet of test drilling in 48 holes.
In the Sierra Blanca Mountains, rare earths appear to exist in low concentrations, but to be spread throughout the rock. “Finely disseminated” and “uniformly mineralized” are the words the company uses. A production mine, which the company hopes to have in operation by 2015, would involve the leveling of mountains from the top down.
Quite apart from the radical modification of the topography, the concentration and processing of the ore – which would likely take place near the mine – raises concerns. The processing of rare earth ore has a checkered history across the world, even with the US.
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