The Energy Department’s (DOE’s) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has found high concentrations of rare earth elements (REEs) in coal samples from the Illinois, Northern Appalachian, Central Appalachian, Rocky Mountain Coal Basins, and the Pennsylvania Anthracite region. The discovery of REEs will reduce dependency on imports for technological manufacturing, DOE says. These highly concentrated samples are greater than 300 parts per million (ppm). “Rare earth elements are vital to the development and manufacturing of high-tech devices such as computers, cell phones, and our national defense systems,” said Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Concentrations of the elements at 300 ppm are integral to the commercial viability of extracting REEs from coal and coal byproducts, making NETL’s finding particularly significant in the effort to develop economical domestic supplies of these elements. These findings could encourage technology developers to recover REEs from these basins by helping them find high quality feedstocks – the raw materials needed for REE recovery processes. Higher REE concentrations in the feedstock will improve the prospect of producing higher-purity REE materials. A separate research initiative is focusing on DOE cost-shared research projects to design, develop, and test technology to actually recover REEs from coal-related materials in a variety of American coal basins. These recovery projects began in October and will use materials from the high-REE containing coal basins as feedstocks.
High concentrations of rare earth elements found in American coal basins