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Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. It is found in widespread locations all over the world, it is about three to four times more abundant than uranium. Thorium exists in nature in a single isotopic form as 232Th which decays very slowly (its half-life is about three times the age of the Earth).


The most common source of thorium is the rare earth phosphate mineral monazite, which contains up to about 12% thorium phosphate, but 6-7% on average. World monazite resources are estimated to be about 12 million tonnes, two-thirds of which are in heavy mineral sands deposits on the south and east coasts of India. There are substantial deposits in several other countries with South Africa having an estimated 148 000 tons of Thorium.


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