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More research into 'rare earth' elements in lignite coal


UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center has been doing a lot of research about rare earth elements in lignite coal.

Rare earth elements are used in technology such as smartphones, hard drives and rechargeable batteries. And the demand is growing.

New research approved by the state Industrial Commission could lead to industrial uses.

EERC will be leading a team focused on how the state produces those elements from Williston Basin coals.

"We're going to identify how to extract them more efficiently from the coals," said EERC director Charles Gorecki. "We're going to identify potential uses, and maybe even the strategies for concentrating them and moving down that 'value chain,' to develop an industry around critical  minerals and critical elements around North Dakota and the United States."

Currently, China is the main source of these rare elements.

"It's critically important for national security," Gorecki said. "And it's potentially a profitable venture."

Gorecki said North Dakota is blessed with an incredible resource.

"These rare earths and critical minerals are just some of those," Gorecki said.

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