China has emerged as the world’s predominant supplier, controlling 97 percent of the global market for rare earths. In recent years, lawmakers have expressed concerns about China’s “rare earth” dominance, and these concerns were heightened when Beijing temporarily halted exports to Japan last year during a territorial dispute. Despite having such obscure names as praseodymium, promethium and samarium – no copper or zinc here – they are necessary for such routine contemporary technologies as magnets, laser pointers and miniature electronics, such as iPods.
Quantum acquired a circular piece of land – a bit more than 4 miles in diameter – near Elk Creek late last year. The land, which the U.S. Geological Survey projects may have one of the world’s largest deposits of niobium and rare earths, has since been poked, prodded and drilled to determine whether it held any niobium, which has never been mined in the U.S., or rare earths, which the U.S. has not mined in almost 10 years