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7/26/2017 by mdc
http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/state-geologists-finding-f...
Jessica Holdman reports that armed with a pick axe, state mineral researchers are sampling North Dakota coal to make a model for finding rare-earth elements in the state coal seams....mostly lignites.

The researchers have been working on the project since 2015, taking 472 samples at 60 sites across the Little Missouri Badlands. Rare-earth elements include valuable materials, including europium, holmium and scandium, and are used in a multitude of modern technology, magnets, hard drives, batteries and lasers, with about 90% of the world supply currently controlled by China. This foreign dependence is driving industry to look closer to home.

It has helped that North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources geologists, Ed Murphy, Ned Kruger and Levi Moxness, already knew where to look as a result of their experiences from previous projects. The researchers sampled the region where uranium mining historically took place, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, in western North Dakota.

Decades ago, companies needed a federal allotment to mine uranium, said Murphy, the state geologist. When the allotment requirement was lifted, companies were able to mine it anywhere. With the high cost of transportation from North Dakota, the nine to 16 mines in the state closed.

But industry could find value there again. The researchers picked coal from surface seams along Badlands buttes. You can walk up the slope and target the coals, Murphy said. Of the samples taken, 19 met the industry profitability standard of 300 parts per million, said Kruger, subsurface geologist.

It seems to be kind of hit and miss, he said of the concentrations that are often variable within a seam. But after taking samples from a wide area, Kruger said trends were found with higher concentrations in the thinner coal seams and higher concentrations at the top or bottom of the seams. Once that was discovered, the averages went up. The thickest seam sampled was 18 feet.

Read on ...


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