Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals

Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals

Round Top Rare Earth Element prospect near Sierra Blanca, Texas.

A focus of research on rare earth elements (REE) contributes to the USGS major science goals and priorities as outlined in Circular 1309, specifically towards “Energy and Minerals for America’s Future: Providing a Scientific Foundation for Resource Security, Environmental Health, Economic Vitality, and Land Management.” The importance of the minerals supply to the overall vitality and security of the domestic economy has also been highlighted by studies by other national organizations (e.g. NRC, 2008; DOE, 2010). The studies in this program that address all aspects of rare earth elements as a mineral resource, from mineral genesis to exploration, extraction, processing and economics are particularly relevant to governmental and industry partners that prioritize research topics addressing availability and assessment of REE and other critical mineral resources as a key component of domestic energy critical elements (e.g. Price, 2011). As with other research areas, CEE collaborates with the Economic Minerals Program on energy sector applications and trends that focus on REE and other critical minerals, in particular supply-demand balances, economics of minerals recovery and trade flows and associated issues.

Research related to rare earth elements in Texas includes:

  • Mineralization controls of the Round Top REE deposit and other Paleogene laccoliths in Trans-Pecos Texas.
  • REE and other critical mineral occurrences in association with the Cave Peak molybdenum deposit.
  • Mineralogy, petrology, whole-rock chemistry, tectonics, structural geology, isotope geochemistry, geochronology, fluid and thermal history, alteration and ore genesis.
  • REE and other critical mineral distribution in Texas coal.


DOE, 2010, Critical minerals strategy: U. S. Department of Energy, 171 p.

Elliott, B. A., 2018, Petrogenesis of heavy rare earth element enriched rhyolite: Source and magmatic evolution of the Round Top laccolith, Trans-Pecos, Texas: Minerals, v. 8, p. 423-448. doi.org/10.3390/min8100423.

NRC, 2008, Minerals, critical minerals, and the U. S. economy (summary): National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, 17 p.

O’Neill, L. C., 2014, REE-Be-U-F mineralization of the Round Top laccolith, Sierra Blanca Peaks, Trans-Pecos Texas: Master's thesis, The University of Texas at Austin.

O’Neill, L. C., Elliott, B. A., Kyle, J. R., 2017, Mineralogy and crystallization history of a highly differentiated REE-enriched hypabyssal rhyolite, Round Top laccolith, Trans-Pecos, Texas: Mineralogy and Petrology, v. 111, p. 569-592. doi.org/10.1007/s00710-017-0511-5.

Piccione, G., Rasbury, E. T., Elliott, B. A., Kyle, J. R., Jaret, S. J., Acerbo, A. S., Lanzirotti, A., Northrup, P., Wooton, K., and Parrish, R. R., 2019, Vein fluorite U-Pb dating demonstrates post-6.2 Ma rare earth element mobilization associated with Rio Grande rifting: Geosphere, v. 15, p. 1958–1972. doi.org/10.1130/GES02139.1.

Price, J. G., 2011, Energy critical elements: Securing materials for emerging technologies: Mining Engineering, v. 63, p. 33-34.

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