Beryllium (Be) is a critical metal mineral commodity with unique chemical properties, making it indispensable to the computer, telecommunication, aerospace, medical, defense, and nuclear industries. In the U.S., beryllium is obtained primarily from the mineral bertrandite (Be4Si2O7(OH)2), from the Spor Mountain, Utah, deposit.
Domestic beryllium reserves and production capabilities are diminishing. There is a lack of understanding of the geology of beryllium resources – how they are formed, and what the future resource supply might be. Hence, a U.S. Department of Defense partnership with Materion Corporation, the only U.S. producer of beryllium, was established to ensure a long-term stable supply of beryllium metal. The mined deposits of bertrandite and related mineralized rocks at Spor Mountain make up a single world class resource whose apparent geological uniqueness is a source of conflicting opinions among scientists.
We will study known deposits of beryllium to determine where undiscovered beryllium resources might be found. We will analyze how and where beryllium becomes concentrated in Earth’s crust, gather a comprehensive modern inventory of global ore samples, and study supporting mineral assessment strategies for beryllium resources. We will also address controversies about the geological uniqueness of the world-class Spor Mountain, Utah, beryllium deposit.
We will compile global data on all aspects (geochemistry, mineralogy, mining statistics, production, uses, markets) of beryllium resources, both bertrandite and beryl types. We will fully characterize the bertrandite ore currently produced at Spor Mountain, Utah, and compare it with related occurrences in the trend from Utah-New Mexico-Texas into northern Mexico. Global inventories of for another major type of beryllium ore, lithium-cesium-tantalum (LCT) pegmatites, exist, but we will focus on their beryl resources rather than the previous focus on their lithium resources. Inventories of comparable international resources (for example, the central Gobi volcanic zone, Mongolia; and rare earth element-rich alkaline volcano-plutonic rocks within the Transbaikal-Mongolian rare-metal province, Siberia) will provide a global context for forecasting future resources.
Contact: Robert Ayuso, firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-648-6347
We will analyze ore samples from various beryllium deposits, to determine the timing, duration and recurrence patterns of geologic processes favorable for enrichment of beryllium to economic grades. We will also determine the mineralogical and chemical requirements of beryl intended for use in production of high-purity beryllium metal. Analyses will be done using sensitive high resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP), laser-ablation inductively coupled mass spectroscopy (LA-ICPMS), and electron microprobe.
We will analyze beryllium production, uses, and future resources. Our findings will help reduce U.S. supply vulnerabilities, as we will be better able to identify beryllium resources, and to forecast long-term trends in beryllium production and material flow.
Lederer, G.W., Foley, N.K., Jaskula, B.W., and Ayuso, R.A., 2016, Beryllium—A critical mineral commodity—Resources, production, and supply chain: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3081, 4 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20163081.
Ayuso, R.A., Vazquez, J.A., Foley, N.K., and Jackson, J.C., 2017, SHRIMP U-Pb geochronology of the Spor Mountain Formation and of Be-U-rich opal, Utah: Continuous opal formation, episodic Be-U mineralization, and remobilization events: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 49, No. 4, doi:10.1130/abs/2017CD-292784.
Foley, N.K., 2017, Rare earth elements in clays: a resource for the future?: XVI International Clay Conference (ICC 2017), 17-21 July, 2017, Granada, Spain. [Invited]
Foley, N., and Ayuso, R., 2017, Advances in deposit genesis for the world-class volcanic-hosted beryllium deposits at Spor Mountain, Utah, USA: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 49, No. 4, doi:10.1130/abs/2017CD-292780.
Foley, Nora, Ayuso, Robert, Lederer, Graham, and Jaskula, Brian, 2016, Volcanogenic Beryllium Deposits at Spor Mountain, Utah, USA: Impact on Past Production and Material Flow Cycles: Goldschmidt conference, June 26-July 1, 2016, Yokohama, Japan. View Foley 2016 Goldschmidt abstract.
Lederer, G.W., Jaskula, B.W., Foley, N.K., and Ayuso, R.A., 2017, Global beryllium supply chain and materials flow analysis: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 49, No. 6, doi:10.1130/abs/2017AM-297486.
Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center