Yttrium is a transition metal that was named after the the town of Ytterby, Sweden. Its chemical makeup is similar to a lanthanoid, and it is found in almost all rare earth minerals. Yttrium is used to make phosphors and LEDs, as well as having other uses in the electronics industry. YBCO, yttrium barium copper oxide, is a high-temperature superconductor. Yttrium-90 is a radioactive isotope used to treat cancer.
Domestic Production and Use: The rare-earth element yttrium was not mined in the United States in 2010. All yttrium metal and compounds used in the United States were imported. Principal uses were in phosphors for color televisions and computer monitors, temperature sensors, trichromatic fluorescent lights, and x-ray-intensifying screens. Yttria-stabilized zirconia was used in alumina-zirconia abrasives, bearings and seals, high-temperature refractories for continuous-casting nozzles, jet-engine coatings, oxygen sensors in automobile engines, simulant gemstones, and wear-resistant and corrosion-resistant cutting tools. In electronics, yttrium-iron garnets were components in microwave radar to control high-frequency signals. Yttrium was an important component in yttrium-aluminum-garnet laser crystals used in dental and medical surgical procedures, digital communications, distance and temperature sensing, industrial cutting and welding, nonlinear optics, photochemistry, and photoluminescence. Yttrium also was used in heating-element alloys, high-temperature superconductors, and superalloys. The approximate distribution in 2010 by end use was as follows: phosphors (all types), 81%; ceramics, 12%; metallurgy, 5%; and electronics and lasers, 2%.
Recycling: Small quantities, primarily from laser crystals and synthetic garnets.
Import Sources (2006–09): Yttrium compounds, greater than 19% to less than 85% weight percent yttrium oxide equivalent: China, 93%; Japan, 6%; France, 1%; and other, insignificant. Import sources based on Journal of Commerce data (2009 only): China, 75%; Japan, 15%; France, 8%; Austria, 1%; and other, 1%.
Events, Trends, and Issues: Estimated yttrium consumption in the United States decreased in 2009 and was expected to increase in 2010. The United States required yttrium for use in phosphors and in electronics, especially those used in defense applications.
Yttrium production and marketing within China continued to be competitive. China was the source of most of the world’s supply of yttrium, from its weathered clay ion-adsorption ore deposits in the southern Provinces, primarily Fujian, Guangdong, and Jiangxi, with a lesser number of deposits in Guangxi and Hunan. Processing was primarily at facilities in Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Jiangxi Provinces. Yttrium was consumed mainly in the form of high-purity oxide compounds for phosphors. Smaller amounts were used in ceramics, electronic devices, lasers, and metallurgical applications.
China was the primary source of most of the yttrium consumed in the United States. About 90% of the imported yttrium compounds, metal, and alloys were sourced from China, with lesser amounts from Japan, France, and Austria.
World Resources: Although reserves may be sufficient to satisfy near-term demand at current rates of production, economics, environmental issues, and permitting and trade restrictions could affect the mining or availability of many of the rare-earth elements, including yttrium. Large resources of yttrium in monazite and xenotime are available worldwide in ancient and recent placer deposits, carbonatites, uranium ores, and weathered clay deposits (ion-adsorption ore). Additional large subeconomic resources of yttrium occur in apatite-magnetite-bearing rocks, deposits of niobium-tantalum minerals, non-placer monazite-bearing deposits, sedimentary phosphate deposits, and uranium ores, especially those of the Blind River District near Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada, which contain yttrium in brannerite, monazite, and uraninite. Additional resources in Canada are contained in allanite, apatite, and britholite at Eden Lake, Manitoba; allanite and apatite at Hoidas Lake, Saskatchewan; and fergusonite and xenotime at Thor Lake, Northwest Territories. The world’s resources of yttrium are probably very large. Yttrium is associated with most rare-earth deposits. It occurs in various minerals in differing concentrations and occurs in a wide variety of geologic environments, including alkaline granites and intrusives, carbonatites, hydrothermal deposits, laterites, placers, and vein-type deposits.
Substitutes: Substitutes for yttrium are available for some applications but generally are much less effective. In most uses, especially in electronics, lasers, and phosphors, yttrium is not subject to substitution by other elements. As a stabilizer in zirconia ceramics, yttria (yttrium oxide) may be substituted with calcia (calcium oxide) or magnesia (magnesium oxide), but they generally impart lower toughness.
Ytrium Producers Molycorp - http://www.molycorp.com/products/yttrium.html - Molycorp is a mining and marketing subsidiary of Chevron (NYSE: CVX) that produces yttrium, in addition to molybdenum and other rare earth elements.
Great Western Minerals Group (CVE: GWG) Metall Rare Earth Limited - http://www.metall.com.cn/y.htm Avalon Rare Metals (TSE: AVL)
ESPI High Purity Metals - http://www.espimetals.com/metals/catyttrium.htm Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SPPI) - Yttrium-90
Alkane Resources (ASX: ALK)
Seymour Ventures (CVE: SEY) - Henry Pegmatite property in Fremont County, Colorado
Tasman Metals (CVE: TSM) - Norra Karr heavy rare earth element project in Sweden
(wiki) - Yttrium on Wikipedia
Yttrium News 2011-06-14 - (bw) - Compounds of rare-earth metals, of yttrium or of scandium: European Union market outlook 2011 and forecast till 2015
2011-06-09 - (mw) - Dacha sells 86,000 kilograms of yttrium oxide
2011-06-07 - (gnn) - Immunomedics reports final survival data with yttirum-90-labeled Clivatuzumab Tetraxetan and low-dose Gemcitabine in advanced pancreatic cancer
2011-05-16 - (mw) - Seymour Ventures subsidiary Rare Earth Industries acquires lanthanum-yttrium exploration property
2010-11-11 - (for) - Names you need to know in 2011: Alkane Resources, for really rare earths
2010-02-01 - (sd) - Superconducting hydrogen? Researchers model three hydrogen-dense metal alloys