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Thorium resources of selected regions in the United States

Circular 824

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Abstract

Thorium resources have been assessed in a previous report entitled 'Principal thorium resources in the United States' (Staatz and others, 1979) for (1) veins in the larger districts, {2) massive carbonatites, {3) disseminated deposits, and {4) stream placers of North and South Carolina. This report is a sequel to that report and assesses thorium resources in {1) Florida beach placers, (2) Idaho stream placers, (3) veins and pipes in the Bokan Mountain district, Alaska, (4) carbonatite dikes, and {5) apatite-bearing iron deposits near Mineville, New York. Thorium resources for each of these categories are divided into reserves and probable potential resources. When data are available, each of these is then divided into the following cost categories: (1) the amount of ThO2 producible at a cost of less than $15/lb (per pound), (2) the amount producible at a cost of between $15 and $30/lb, and (3) the amount producible at a cost of between $30 and $50/1b. Beach placers of northern Florida have reserves of 16,200 short tons of ThO2 and probable potential resources of 5,120 tons of ThO2. These deposits are heavy-mineral placers that are mined for a variety of minerals--principally titanium minerals and zircon. The thorium-bearing mineral in these placers, monazite, makes up only a minor part of the heavy minerals. Therefore, production of ThO2 from these placers is dependent on the markets for other heavy minerals. Assuming the market for other heavy minerals to be the same as in 1978, then 98 percent of the ThO2 could be produced for less than $15/lb. If, however, no other coproducts were produced, then the cost of producing ThO2 would be greater than $50/1b. Stream placers containing thorium are found along many streams that drain the Idaho batholith, but most are too small to add significantly to the thorium resources. The resources of the five largest districts, each of which consists of at least several individual placers, have been tabulated. These districts are (1) Long Valley, (2) Bear Valley, (3) Burgdorf-Warren area, (4) Boise Basin, and (5) Ell City-Newsome area. These five areas have reserves of 10,100 short tons of ThO2 and probable potential resources of 10,300 tons. Long Valley contains about half the reserves--5,680 tons of ThO2--and all the probable potential resources. Monazite is the most important heavy mineral in all except the Bear Valley deposit. Here euxenite, although not quite as abundant as monazite, is a more important mineral, because it contains approximately 14.5 percent U3O8 in addition to 5 percent ThO2. Reserves in this placer amount to 1,605 short tons of ThO2 and 1,475 tons of U3O8. Eighty-two percent of the reserves and all of the probable potential resources can be produced at less than $30/1b of ThO2. The lower cost reserves are concentrated in the Long and Bear Valley areas. Here 64 percent of the ThO2 can be produced for less than $15/1b and another 29 percent of the ThO2 at between $15 and $30/lb. Sixteen veins and pipelike bodies are evaluated in the Bokan Mountain area of southeastern Alaska. The district contains other deposits that are too poorly exposed to make meaningful resource estimates. Reserves estimated in this district are 1,440 short tons of ThO2; probable potential resources amount to 2,320 tons of ThO2. About 99 percent of these resources are in deposits whose grade is at least 0.2 percent ThO2. In addition, these deposits contain reserves of 420 tons of U3O8 and probable potential resources of 820 tons of U3O8. Eighty-two percent of the reserves and probable potential resources can be produced at less than $15/lb. The average grade of this ore is 0.54 percent ThO2 and 0 15 percent U3O8. Some carbonatite dikes, although generally not as high grade as the veins, contain resources of thorium. Carbonatite dikes in the following six districts were investigated: (1) Wet Mountains, Colo.; (2) Powderhorn district, Colorado; (3) Mountain Pass area, California; (4) Bearpaw

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Thorium resources of selected regions in the United States
Series title:
Circular
Series number:
824
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1980
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey,
Description:
iii, 32 p. :ill., map ;27 cm.