4 August 2023
Ares detects germanium and gallium at US fluorspar mine
Following assaying conducted by inspection, verification, testing and certification services company SGS, Ares Strategic Mining Inc of Vancouver, BC, Canada, which owns the only permitted fluorspar mine in the USA, says that it has detected germanium and gallium at its 5982-acre Lost Sheep Fluorspar Project in the Spor Mountain area, Juab County, Utah (about 214km south-west of Salt Lake City).
In 2018 the US government classified fluorspar as a Critical Mineral, “deemed critical to US national security and the economy.” Fluorspar remains the only non-metallic Critical Mineral, which is 100% imported in the entire USA. Fluorspar’s classification as a Critical Mineral in the USA translates to a faster permitting period, enabling mining operations to initiate more quickly than operations for conventional minerals, Ares notes.
As the firm is focused on returning fluorspar manufacturing to North America, Ares is currently concentrating on building processing facilities to achieve production at its operation. However, it plans to explore the rare-earth discovery when it conducts further drilling. The minerals were located through an RC drilling program, and further work using core drilling with be used to develop a better understanding of the rare earths at the Spor Mountain project.
Germanium ores are rare and most germanium is a by-product of zinc production and from coal fly ash. China produces around 60% of the world’s germanium, according to European industry association Critical Raw Materials Alliance (CRMA), with the rest coming from Canada, Finland, Russia and the USA. China exported 43.7 metric tons of unwrought and wrought germanium last year, according to Chinese customs. About $39m worth of germanium was consumed last year, up 10% from 2021, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Gallium is found in trace amounts in zinc ores and in bauxite, and gallium metal is produced when processing bauxite to make aluminium. About 80% is produced in China, according to the CRMA. China exported 94 metric tons of gallium in 2022, up 25% on the prior year, according to Chinese customs. US imports of gallium metal and gallium arsenide (GaAs) wafers in 2022 were worth about $3m and $200m, respectively, according to USGS.
China has hence been the USA’s principal source of both germanium and gallium. However, since 1 August, both rare-earth minerals have been restricted from export from China without a permit from the authorities.
“It’s an extremely interesting find to locate both germanium and gallium at our fluorspar project, right at the time when the trade war is promising to interfere with the supply of minerals vital to the production of microchips and electronics needed to sustain the tech industry,” says Ares’ CEO & president James Walker. “We are currently building our production facility in Utah, and upgrades could be incorporated into the operation to retrieve the minerals, provided further investigation justifies the expanded recovery operation,” he adds. “As we continue our construction work, we will investigate this discovery, examining the possibility of commercialization.”