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Minerals 2016, 6(3), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/min6030088

Marine Phosphorites as Potential Resources for Heavy Rare Earth Elements and Yttrium

1
Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, 2885 Mission St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA
2
Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, Jacobs University, Bremen, P.O. Box 750561, Bremen D-28725, Germany
3
Ocean Sciences, University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
4
Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, 1680 East West Rd., POST 701, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
5
Chief Operations Officer, Chatham Rock Phosphate, 93 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Adrian Jones
Received: 13 June 2016 / Revised: 10 August 2016 / Accepted: 17 August 2016 / Published: 29 August 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Marine Minerals: From Genesis to Resources)
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Abstract

Marine phosphorites are known to concentrate rare earth elements and yttrium (REY) during early diagenetic formation. Much of the REY data available are decades old and incomplete, and there has not been a systematic study of REY distributions in marine phosphorite deposits that formed over a range of oceanic environments. Consequently, we initiated this study to determine if marine phosphorite deposits found in the global ocean host REY concentrations of high enough grade to be of economic interest. This paper addresses continental-margin (CM) and open-ocean seamount phosphorites. All 75 samples analyzed are composed predominantly of carbonate fluorapatite and minor detrital and authigenic minerals. CM phosphorites have low total REY contents (mean 161 ppm) and high heavy REY (HREY) complements (mean 49%), while seamount phosphorites have 4–6 times higher individual REY contents (except for Ce, which is subequal; mean ΣREY 727 ppm), and very high HREY complements (mean 60%). The predominant causes of higher concentrations and larger HREY complements in seamount phosphorites compared to CM phosphorites are age, changes in seawater REY concentrations over time, water depth of formation, changes in pH and complexing ligands, and differences in organic carbon content in the depositional environments. Potential ore deposits with high HREY complements, like the marine phosphorites analyzed here, could help supply the HREY needed for high-tech and green-tech applications without creating an oversupply of the LREY. View Full-Text
Keywords: marine phosphorite deposits; seamount phosphorite; continental-margin phosphorite; rare earth elements; heavy rare earth elements; yttrium; resources marine phosphorite deposits; seamount phosphorite; continental-margin phosphorite; rare earth elements; heavy rare earth elements; yttrium; resources
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Hein, J.R.; Koschinsky, A.; Mikesell, M.; Mizell, K.; Glenn, C.R.; Wood, R. Marine Phosphorites as Potential Resources for Heavy Rare Earth Elements and Yttrium. Minerals 2016, 6, 88.

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