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EERC researching "rare earth elements" in lignite coal

Oct 26, 2020

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."

Falkirk Mine land swap

Apr 19, 2020
Lignite Energy Council

It’s an unusual reclamation bond release.

It involves 87 acres of land at the Falkirk Mine.

The land that had been mined has become residential.

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann said Falkirk entered into a land-swap with landowners Chad and Jennfier Berg. Christmann said the Bergs wanted to develop this tract of land into a farmstead.

"The Bergs' former farmstead, located in another are of this mine permit, will be mined through in the near future," Christmann said.

North Dakota will receive $2.8 million dollars from the federal Abandoned Mine Lands program this year.

The money comes from a tax coal companies pay to take care of problems with mines that pre-dated modern reclamation techniques.

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann said many are small, underground mines – and there may be hundreds of them. Christmann said a number of the mines were privately owned.

Reclamation work continuing at Gascoyne Mine

Jul 11, 2019

The mining stopped in the mid-90s.

But the reclamation work goes on.

Knife River Coal continues to work on reclaiming the Gascoyne Mine in southwestern North Dakota. It has one permitted parcel left to reclaim.

"This has taken decades," said Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann, who holds the PSC's reclamation portfolio. "While some of the features were tiny, they weren't ignored."

Christmann said the company needed to make sure the reclamation was done correctly, even though mining operations had ceased -- and no revenue was coming in.

Teachers learning about lignite coal

Jun 11, 2019
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Teachers from across the region are in Bismarck – learning about lignite.

The annual Lignite Education seminar is being held at Bismarck State College, sponsored by the Lignite Energy Council.

"Normally when we think about lignite, it's 80 percent used for generating electricity, and 20 percent at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, making synthetic natural gas and a plethora of fertilizers," said Council vice-president Steve Van Dyke.

This year, the focus of the seminar is toward new and emerging markets.

'Rare earth' elements could be a boon for North Dakota

Jun 12, 2018

There’s a lot of interest in what are called “rare earth elements.”

They have been found in North Dakota’s lignite deposits.

"They're 14 different elements," said North Dakota state geologist Ed Murphy. "They make very strong, and relatively small, magnets."

Murphy said they're used in things such as cell phones, solar technology and wind turbines.

"Every time we go out, we find a little bit higher levels of those rare earth elements," Murphy said. "We have found the highest concentration of those elements in coal in the nation."

“Unlocking 800 years of Energy.”

That was the theme for the annual Lignite Energy Council meeting, held in Bismarck.

Council vice-president Steve Van Dyke said he can sense optimism among the state’s coal industry, as well as its partners that use lignite for electric power generation.

Long before North Dakota tapped its oil, there was lignite coal mining. And a century ago, the state engineer was tasked with inspecting those mines and building a report.

Amy Sisk / Prairie Public

Officials across coal-rich states are cheering an announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency will withdraw the Clean Power Plan. Now, attention turns to how the nation will address greenhouse gas emissions going forward.

The rule put in place by the Obama administration would have required North Dakota to reduce its carbon emissions 45 percent by 2030. The state’s coal industry worried this would force utilities to shut down some coal-fired power plants and, subsequently, the coal mines that feed lignite to these facilities.

Amy Sisk / Prairie Public

North Dakota’s lignite coal industry has ambitious -- and pricey -- plans to capture carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, which industry leaders highlighted Thursday at a conference in Bismarck.