Oboniobite and Scandio-Fluoro-Eckermannite: China Discovers Two New Minerals

by | 9. Jul 2024 - 09:09 | Knowledge

The minerals contain the critical metals niobium and scandium.

Chinese geologists have discovered two new minerals containing critical metals, according to the state-owned newspaper China Daily. The minerals with the technical names oboniobite and scandio-fluoro-eckermannite reportedly contain two critical metals of strategic importance: niobium and scandium. The minerals were discovered in the Bayan Obo mine in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Bayan Obo is the world’s largest rare earth mine. It was originally discovered as an iron deposit in 1927. According to Li Xiao, general manager of Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Union, the largest steelmaker in the region, this marks the 19th and 20th newly discovered mineral in the mine since 1959.

The geologists involved in the discovery highlighted that scandio-fluoro-eckermannite is the first mineral containing scandium ever found in China. Although China is the leading producer of scandium, it is usually only recovered as a byproduct from cobalt, nickel, titanium, and zirconium process streams, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (PDF). It is mainly used for aluminum-scandium alloys and solid oxide fuel cells, with other, more minor areas of applications. Niobium, on the other hand, is used as an additive to steel to increase the strength and toughness of the final product.

Last year, we reported on the 17th newly discovered mineral at Bayan Obo, the niobium containing, aptly named, niobobaotite. This was followed by the 18th discovery at the mine, bayanoboit-y, a compound containing heavy rare earths such as dysprosium and terbium.

Photo: iStock/SeventyFour

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