CHINESE GEOLOGISTS UNEARTH TWO NOVEL MINERALS AT WORLD’S LARGEST RARE-EARTH MINE

BEIJING: Chinese geologists have discovered two new minerals at the world’s largest rare-earth mine in north China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has announced.

The two new niobium-scandium minerals, named as Oboniobite and Scandio-fluoro-eckermannite, were discovered in the Bayan Obo deposit in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The discovery was made through a collaboration between the CAS Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Union Co., Ltd., Baotou Research Institute of Rare Earths, and Central South University, the CAS publicity office confirmed with Xinhua on Thursday.
Li Xianhua, a CAS academician, on behalf of the CAS Institute of Geology and Geophysics, announced the findings, noting that the International Mineralogical Association has confirmed their status as new minerals and approved their naming, according to a CAS press release.
Niobium and scandium are both extremely rare strategically critical metals. Niobium is mainly used in special steels, superconducting materials and aerospace industries, while scandium is widely used in aluminum-scandium alloys and solid oxide fuel cells.
Li said that the new minerals contain valuable elements that have significant applications in fields such as new materials, new energy, information technology, aerospace, national defense and military industry, and are of great significance to the country’s economic and social development.
Li Xiao, general manager of Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Union Co., Ltd., a major steelmaker in China, said that Bayan Obo has abundant mineral resources, such as iron, niobium, scandium, thorium and fluorite.

Since 1959, 18 new minerals have been discovered in this deposit, and Oboniobite and Scandio-fluoro-eckermannite are the 19th and 20th discovered here, said Li Xiao.
Fan Hongrui, a researcher of the CAS Institute of Geology and Geophysics, said that Oboniobite is yellow-brown to brown in color. It is plate-like and ranges from 20 to 100 micrometers in particle size.
Scandio-fluoro-eckermannite is the first mineral containing scandium ever discovered in China. It is named after the CAS academician Zhai Mingguo in honor of his outstanding contribution in China’s study of mineral deposits. It is pale yellow or light blue and columnar, with a particle size of up to 350 micrometers, said Fan.

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