The 16 million tons of materials could contain 780 years worth of yttrium, 620 years worth of europium, 420 years worth of terbium, and 730 years worth of dysprosium. In other words, according to the paper, it "has the potential to supply these materials on a semi-infinite basis to the world."
That alone is a pretty big deal, but it becomes even more significant given the current supply and demand of rare earth metals.
According to the US Geological Survey
, while the minerals are relatively abundant, they have "much less tendency to become concentrated in exploitable ore deposits," making a find of this scale even more important.
"Most of the world's supply of (rare earth elements) comes from only a handful of sources," a USGS report said, adding the long-term shortage or unavailability of the substances "would force significant changes in many technological aspects of American society."