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Overview

Beryllium Occurrences World Wide Map
Map showing world locations of beryllium resources. View full size map. [2.43 MB]

Why is USGS doing this research?

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.

What research is USGS going to do?

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.

Bertranite Nodule
Large layered nodule from the Roadside pit, Spor Mountain, Utah, showing fluorite, opal, and bertrandite mineralization. Beryllium is concentrated in the outer opal-fluorite zone; such samples can contain as much as 1-percent beryllium as bertrandite. Photograph by David A. Lindsey, USGS.
beryllium nodule
Beryllium nodule from Spor Mountain, Utah. Photograph by E.K. Ayuso, USGS Volunteer.

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Project Activities

scientists sampling at Spor Mountain mine
USGS scientists gathering samples for analysis at Spor Mountain, Utah. Photograph by Robert Ayuso, USGS.

Domestic and Global Inventories for Beryllium Resources

Contact: Nora Foley, nfoley@usgs.gov, 703-648-6179

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.

scientists sampling at Spor Mountain
USGS scientists Brian Jaskula and Robert Ayuso collecting samples at Spor Mountain, Utah. Photograph by Nora Foley, USGS.

Geologic Processes and Mineralogical Characteristics of Deposits

Contact: Robert Ayuso, rayuso@usgs.gov, 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.

Material Flow / Lifecycle Studies

Contact: Graham W. Lederer, glederer@usgs.gov, 703-648-7719

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.

Spot Mountain caprock over tuff
Overlying Spor Mountain rhyolite caprock and underlying Beryllium Tuff member. Photograph by Nora Foley, USGS.
beryllium tuff
Closeup of the Beryllium Tuff member, Spor Mountain, Utah. Photograph by Nora Foley, USGS.

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Collaborators

Materion Corporation

Spor Mountain open pit
Spor Mountain open pit; mineralized tuff in foreground; mine staff and USGS scientists collecting samples. Photograph by Robert Ayuso, USGS.

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Products

Abstracts

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.

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Project Contact

Nora Foley
Phone: 703-648-6179
Email: nfoley@usgs.gov
Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center

Mineral Resources Program Science Priority

The use of firm, trade, and brand names is for identification purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. government.

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