As part of the initiative to develop country’s rare earth element (REE) program, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is surveying the area of an old iron mine in Camarines Norte for possible exploration of scandium and etrium deposits.
MGB Director Leo Jasareno said that the agency is now scouting the area of the now defunct Philippines Iron Mines (PIM) in the municipality of Jose Panganiban to determine the volume of REE deposits.
“The REE deposit is still indeterminate at this time,” Jasareno said.
Once the biggest iron mines in Asia, PIM ceased operations in the 1980s.
Early this year, the MGB begun surveying copper, gold and nickel mines in Palawan and Nueva Vizcaya for REE deposits that can be used in commercial production.
Other survey sites include the Runruno gold project of FCF Corp. and Didipio copper-gold project of Oceanagold Phils Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya.
The bureau said that these sites are considered to have potential REE levels due to the affinity of alkaline host rocks to granite like those found in China and Thailand.
Also, the laterite deposits in Berong and Ipilan nickel areas in Palawan were sampled, because these have been repeatedly reported to contain values of samarium, europium and scandium.
The coastal sediments in northeastern Palawan were also sampled for possible presence of REE-bearing monazite, alanite and bastnasite minerals. The bureau is testing if these sites have REE deposits similar to the nearshore to offshore sand deposits in EI Nido and San Vicente, Palawan.
The preliminary samples shall be analyzed by petrographic, mineralogic, sedimentologic and chemical methods at MGB’s Petrolab and laboratories overseas.
These other survey areas include Pangasinan (hydrothermal clays), Isabela (Cordon syenite), Baguio District (alkaline rocks and copper/gold deposits), Davao Oriental and Camarines Norte (pegmatites and iron-skarn deposits), northern Palawan (Capoas granite) and the nickel deposits in the mining tenements of Intex Resources Inc. in Mindoro Oriental and Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. in Palawan that were both recently reported to be planning to recover scandium from their laterite ores.
The MGB is spending around P500 million for the reconnaissance survey this year.
Cooperation with China
In April, the MGB met with its Chinese counterparts next month to discuss the planned development of rare earth elements in the Philippines.
It will be recalled that Manila postponed by almost a year the exploration for REE deposits after the experts from the China Geological Survey (CGS), a Chinese government-owned entity, did not arrive in the country for the joint exploration program.
REE are also dubbed as the “metals of the future” and “strategic minerals” because of their uses in the development of weapons guidance systems and other space age technologies.
Although REE are relatively abundant in the earth’s crust, they are rarely concentrated into mineable ore deposits. The principal concentrations of rare earth elements are associated with uncommon varieties of igneous rocks, namely alkaline rocks and carbonatites.
Potentially useful concentrations of REE-bearing minerals are also found in placer deposits, residual deposits formed from deep weathering of igneous rocks, pegmatites, iron-oxide copper-gold deposits and marine phosphates.