GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 65-19
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


LEDERER, Graham W., JASKULA, Brian W., FOLEY, Nora K. and AYUSO, Robert A., U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA 20192,

The United States currently mines and processes more beryllium than any other country in the world. Beryllium resources are globally widespread in the form of beryl-containing pegmatites, but manual sorting and separation processes result in high extraction costs for beryl ore. In contrast, industrial-scale processing of large-tonnage, low-grade deposits of bertrandite ore has become the dominant source of beryllium since the opening of the Spor Mountain mine in Utah in 1969. Future beryllium supplies will continue to be produced from primary sources of beryl and bertrandite ore, as well as from secondary sources of recycled beryllium.

In addition to studying beryllium resources, the United States Geological Survey tracks production, processing, trade, and recycling flows throughout the global beryllium industry. In general, global demand for beryllium has increased for critical application areas such as aerospace, defense, energy, medical, and nuclear technology. Therefore, understanding the status of above-ground beryllium materials remains a priority to ensure a stable supply well into the future. Quantitative modeling of in-use stocks, product lifetimes, and end-of-life flows provides estimates of important components of potential supply.

Materials flow analysis of production and consumption data compiled by the USGS National Minerals Information Center over multiple decades reveals several insights. The majority of beryllium produced in the past is currently unavailable for recovery because it was either: 1) alloyed with copper or other metals that were recycled for their primary content without recovering beryllium, or 2) used as beryllium metal in nuclear, defense, or aerospace applications where it was contaminated or lost in action. In-use stocks represent another large reservoir of beryllium materials, such as in electrical applications, plastic injection molds, and structural components in aircraft. As materials used in these applications flow out of use, secondary production from the recycling of beryllium metal and alloy scrap constitutes an increasingly important part of the supply chain.