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by Consulting Geologist
January, 2008


Nepheline QuarryThe varied applications of nepheline syenite have put the commodity in a prime market position around the world. The Table Mountain nepheline syenite prospect is strategically located near the seaport of Newport, Oregon, and it has excellent access by ground and rail transportation. The estimated reserves at Table Mountain are in the neighborhood of 700 million tons, exploitable by open pit means. The size and the strategic location of the nepheline syenite at Table Mountain justify further research as to the removal of its iron content. The application of biomimic technologies may provide an avenue in this issue.

Nepheline Syenites are igneous intrusive rocks. They are light-colored, medium- to coarse-grained holocrystalline, deficient in silica, feldspathic, largely made up of nepheline, sodium feldspar (albite), and alkali feldspar (orthoclase, microcline), additional trace minerals and rare earth elements (REEs) but no quartz. Silica undersaturated magmas crystallize nepheline instead of albite. These unique rocks set the stage for a wide variety of applications.

Commercially viable syenites are typically high in alumina (>23%), low in silica (<60%), low in iron (<2% Fe2O3), and high in alkalis (Na2O+K2O>15%). Nevertheless, some deposits containing 2 to 5% iron can be used for the manufacture of colored glass and still have application in some ceramics. The syenite at Table Mountain contains alumina 18 to 19%, Silica 58%, iron 5 to 6% and alkalis (Na2O+K2O) 12.43%. Syenites are found all over the world but only a few are sufficiently low in iron, or have iron in a form than could be inexpensively removed, for use in clear glass or ceramic applications.

There are 11 major commercial nepheline deposits in the world, most notably in Russia, Canada and Norway. Some are exploited underground and others by open pit means. The production capacity ranges from 35,000 to 1,500,000 ton per year. Perhaps the most important nepheline producer in the world is Unimin Corporation.

There are about 28 additional known deposits, of which 4 have minor production, 2 are proposed for exploitation, 2 are under development, 2 have been examined, 1 is under preliminary testing, 3 have been delineated, 4 are undergoing exploration, 1 is underdevelopment and 9 have no formal or extensive studies known. The nepheline syenite at Table Mountain is classified in the last 9 with no formal or extensive studies known.

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