The University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center has been doing the study of what are called “rare earth” elements in lignite coal.
Those elements are essential for such things as cell phones, batteries and other electronic devices. Currently, the US imports most of those elements from other countries, such as China.
"We are seeing we have high concentrations in coals, and lignite in particular," said EERC CEO Charles Gorecki. "And it's just identifying where they are, and working on how you extract them, and get them to a processing plant."