Researchers study the production of rare elements from ND coal | North Dakota News

GRAND FORKS, ND (AP) – Researchers are studying whether it would be possible to recover some of the rare elements used to make magnets for electric motors and cell phones, batteries and other high-tech products from coal seams of North Dakota.

It has already been proven that certain rare earth elements such as neodymium and lanthanum and other critical minerals can be found in the state’s coal, but it is not clear if there are enough of these. elements to make their production economical.

So the Bismarck Tribune reports that a group from the University of North Dakota’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research will spend the next year investigating this possibility as part of a 2.45 millions of dollars. The effort received federal and state grants and financial support from several coal mining companies and coal-fired power plant operators.

“Many of these materials are more abundant on earth than gold,” said one of the researchers John Kay. “What makes them rare is that wherever you find them, they are not very concentrated. It is difficult to extract them in any quantity.

One of the hardest things to predict is the future price of these items, as they are so little produced that prices can be volatile. Moreover, it is difficult to predict if a new use could be developed for any of the elements that could lead to an increase in demand.

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Currently, most of the world’s supply of rare earth elements comes from China.

Being able to produce rare earth elements as well would help coal mining companies who face competition from natural gas and concerns about how burning the fuel produces greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change.

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