Coming Scarcity of HREE’s in Modern Apps Looks Good for Canadian Companies

Quest Rare Minerals of Montreal reported their most recent drilling results on Marketwire Jan 12th 2012, satisfying their estimates of viable deposits at Strange Lake B-Zone in Northern Quebec. The Preliminary Economic Assessment report delivered in 2010 and the Revised Resource Estimate in April 2011 were validated by their summer drilling. Peter Cashin, Quest’s President & CEO said in Marketwire that, “We have now defined sufficient resources to more than satisfy the minimum 25-year production model established by the Preliminary Economic Assessment Report.”  Not only are they pleased with what they found but their findings report that Heavy Rare Earth Oxides (HREO), represents between 22.4% and 76.5% of the TREO (Total Rare Earth Oxides), content intersected in the new drilling. This is a significant amount of the rarest of the rare earths that China has included separately in their quotas for 2012 for the first time. Heavy Rare Earths are going to be in higher demand even as Light REE’s are expected to be in surplus supply in the near future. Perhaps Quest’s findings and other alternative sources of HREE’s such as monazite, show that the scarcity has been due to under exploration.

China reported 2012 REE export quotas on Dec. 27th that were slightly higher than 2011, but for the first time included HREE’s, 4,575t within the total of 31 130t, according to Bloomberg. That is only 6.8%. Everyone is predicting a near-term surplus of LREE’s but at a time when a deficit is predicted in HREE’s, Quest’s numbers for HREE’s look very promising. Their area of exploration in northern Canada is mineral-rich, sparsely populated, vast and underexplored. Mines having been shuttered all over the world in favour of cheaper Chinese imports doesn’t indicate that China has the best deposits, just the cheapest. They may have the lion’s share of 48% of deposits according to Dudley Kingsnorth, but it was their price that stopped people from developing mines elsewhere back in the 80’s. The areas of mining in China and India are the areas around the Himalayas, which is the area of the most recent tectonic plate collision and the area of the highest concentration of REE’s. China and India are the #1 and #3 countries for deposits, the second being the U.S. However, The U.S. has a high population that has done a great deal of mineral exploration, and yet has never produced HREE’s. The only known significant deposit of HREE’s is at Bokan in Alaska.  This would seem to indicate that HREE’s are more readily found in the north. The Canadian arctic is much larger and includes the oldest and hardest rocks. This makes Quest’s area of exploration ripe for finds and their report on the quantity of HREE’s is in line with other findings of HREE’s in northern Canada such as at Thor Lake. And newly announced monazite mining by companies such as Medallion Resources of Vancouver, which was abandoned in favour of bastenaesite mining as is done in China, could also change the availability of HREE’s. This is because monazite unlike bastenaesite, always contains every REE, including all the HREE’s. 

The coming scarcity of HREE’s and their irreplacability in modern applications means that the reports of higher HREE’s percentages in Canadian mines looks very good for Quest and other Canadian companies. It is no surprise since people have only recently started to look for deposits again in the last few years, and Canada has been underexplored. As well, undervalued sources such as monazite mean estimates of availability may soon change. The geology of Canada and the remote regions, especially the north, provide excellent opportunities for finding the resource with the narrowest niches. It is said that Rare Earths aren’t rare, but perhaps the best place to look for them has been ascertained. If Quest’s findings are anything to extrapolate from, the future of exploration in Canada and the availability of HREE’s is looking very good indeed.