New lignite research project focuses on 'critical minerals'
North Dakota’s Industrial Commission has awarded $1.2 million to a new lignite research project – which will evaluate the potential for extracting rare earth elements and other critical minerals from lignite.
Rare earth minerals are used in electronics – and are in high demand. The US imports those minerals, with China being the main supplier.
"We know these critical minerals exist in North Dakota," said Lignite Energy Council President and CEO Jason Bohrer. "What we don't know yet is how commercially viable those deposits might be, where the greatest concentrations of those deposits are, and if there is anything we can learn about how to most effectively target the concentration of these minerals underground."
In an interview, Bohrer said the project will be to collect core samples, to determine the abundance and mode of critical elements in the state's coal mines.
"How can we most accurately and efficiently target the richest deposits of these materials, instead of just scatter-shot targeting, where we hope they are," Bohrer said.
Bohrer said this is another way to support the state’s lignite industry.
The total cost of the study is $2.4 million. North American Coal will also be funding it.