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The anomaly at the top of Maine Mountain is rare minerals, according to the USGS



An “anomaly” discovered using aerial mapping technology has revealed that Mount Pennington in northern Maine contains rare elements important to national defense, the USGS reports.

USGS image

An “anomaly” spotted using aerial mapping technology over northern Maine has turned out to be a deposit of rare minerals critical to national defense, according to the US Geological Survey.

Noted the finding was revealed in a November 10 report which precisely identifies the location as Mount Pennington, “a remote peak in central Aroostook County, about 40 miles northwest of Presque Isle, Maine.”

“The discovery included the rare earth elements niobium and zirconium, which are important for electronics, defense and manufacturing,” according to the USGS.

Both elements are key components of electronics, but niobium is considered particularly important for use in superalloys needed for jet engines, experts say.

A USGS research geophysicist is credited with the discovery, which scientists say is “rewriting the geological and tectonic history” of a region that has been “geologically ignored for many decades.”

Aerial data collected in 2021 indicate similar deposits may be present elsewhere in northern Maine, officials said.

‚ÄúNorthern Maine is full of amazing geological wonders. You never know what’s coming next,” University of Maine at Presque Isle professor Chongzheng Wang said in the report.

“I was surprised to see the analytical results that the rocks were so significantly enriched.”

More research is needed to determine whether the deposit is “economically significant” enough to mine, officials said. The plan is to “determine the depth of the geological deposit, as well as how it formed, and which specific minerals contain the rare earth elements discovered to date.”

The wilderness area is not zoned for mining, and Maine officials say a permit application would require rezoning and at least two years of “baseline environmental monitoring.”

A Research paper November 4 in GeoScienceWorld credits the discovery to scientists from the US Geological Survey, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and the Maine Geological Survey of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering topics including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history and a minor in geology.

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