New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting — Abstracts

Critical Minerals in New Mexico

Virginia T. McLemore

New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, New Mexico Tech, 801 Leroy Pl, Bureau of Geology, Socorro, NM, 87801, United States,

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New Mexico has a wealth of mineral resources, including critical minerals. A common definition is “a critical mineral is a nonfuel mineral commodity that is essential to the economic and national security of the United States, and is from a supply chain that is vulnerable to global and national disruption.” Many critical minerals are 100% imported into the U.S (Fig. 1). The U.S. DOI, DOE, and DOD established a list of critical minerals in 2019 and revised that list in 2022. Copper is not considered a critical mineral because the U.S. produces enough copper for current use and copper is imported from other countries where there are secure trade agreements, so the supply of copper is not considered in jeopardy at this time. Uranium was listed as a critical mineral in 2019 because of its use in Navy nuclear reactors. However, because uranium is used as a fuel for nuclear reactors, it was removed from the list in 2022. The critical minerals list is to be reviewed every 2 to 3 years.

A number of critical minerals are found in NM. Rare earth elements (REE) deposits are found in the Gallinas, Capitan, and Cornudas Mountains and Laughlin Peak-Chico Hills; all are associated with Tertiary alkaline igneous rocks. Disseminated Y-Zr-REE deposits in Proterozoic nepheline syenite are found at Pajarito Mountain (Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, Ruidoso). Other critical minerals are associated with various mineral deposits in NM. For example, vanadium, molybdenum, selenium, and REE are associated with sandstone uranium deposits in the Grants uranium district. Rhenium is found in porphyry copper and porphyry molybdenum deposits in NM. Coal deposits are abundant in the state and could be source of several critical minerals (REE, Se, V, Li), additional work is underway to fully understand the distribution of critical minerals in NM coal deposits.

FIGURE 1. Periodic table showing critical minerals in New Mexico.


critical minerals, rare earth elements, vanadium, porphyry copper deposits

pp. 74-75

2023 New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting
April 21, 2023, Macey Center, Socorro, NM
Online ISSN: 2834-5800