The Resurgence of the American Coal Industry: “Is coal the new gold?”

Guest post by David Middleton

Is coal the new gold? A Pennsylvania senate candidate thinks so

By John Moody | Fox News

“There’s coal in them thar hills.” If that sounds like a confused reference to the 1849 California gold rush, think again. Long-ignored coal deposits in eastern Pennsylvania have become a key part of President Trump’s pledge to revitalize American mining and to once again produce critical materials needed for our national defense.

Trump’s Department of Energy is working with Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican representing the district where coal was once king. Barletta, who’s running for the U.S. Senate this year, is leading a new push to extract and process so-called rare earth elements (REEs), a collection of 17 metals and minerals essential to building jet engines, rocket launchers, GPS systems, high-power magnets, I-phones, and just about any other device that’s smarter than its user.


High concentrations of rare earths have been found in the anthracite coal deposits of Pennsylvania. If those can be extracted, separated – the 17 REEs are often found fused together – and processed, America will be poised to compete with China, while strengthening our own national security.

Barletta, who plans to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, has been criss-crossing the Keystone state with a simple message: yes, we can. “It’s hard to get people to listen,” he concedes. “They roll their eyes and say ‘Ugh, we’re not going back to those days.’ But then I explain that this is a new day for coal, especially anthracite, and how we can use it for manufacturing, and just as important, for our own national defense. And now, people are beginning to want to talk about it.”

The most encouraging development: the Energy Department survey of Barletta’s district found high levels of scandium, a particularly valuable rare earth that sells for more than $2,000 per kilo.


Fox News


Rare Earth Elements (REE) aren’t actually “rare;” they are actually quite abundant in the Earth’s crust.  REE just tend to occur in very low concentration deposits; making mining very labor intensive.  However, it appears that many U.S. coal formations have relatively high concentrations of REE…

US DOE finds high concentrations of rare earth elements in American coal basins

EBR Staff Writer

Published 30 November 2017

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has identified high concentrations of rare earth element (REE) in coal samples collected from several American coal basins.

Collected from the Illinois, Northern Appalachian, Central Appalachian, Rocky Mountain Coal Basins, and the Pennsylvania Anthracite regions, the samples were found to have high REE concentrations greater than 300 parts per million (ppm).

NETL said: “Concentrations of rare earths at 300ppm are integral to the commercial viability of extracting REEs from coal and coal by-products, making NETL’s finding particularly significant in the effort to develop economical domestic supplies of these elements.”

NETL has partnered with West Virginia University (WVU), the University of Kentucky (UK), Tetra Tech, and the XLight for the research project.

As part of the project, WVU explored acid mine drainage from bituminous coal mines in the Northern and Central Appalachian Coal Basins, while Tetra Tech assessed bituminous, subbituminous, and anthracite coal from the same basins.


Energy Business Review

Some coal-related sedimentary rocks have REE concentrations greater than 600 ppm.


Geology of Rare Earth Deposits by Tracy Bank, Elliot Roth, Bret Howard, Evan Granite

Funny thing, the one of the project leaders is Dr. Evan Granite… You literally couldn’t make that up if you tried.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is researching the feasibility of extracting our “vast untouched” REE resource in coal and coal byproducts and funding pilot projects.


National Lab Works to Extract Rare Earth Elements From Coal

Tue, 09/19/2017

by Joe Golden, National Energy Technology Laboratory

For more than a century, coal has increased our nation’s prosperity and energy security. Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are investigating whether this abundant domestic resource could yield yet another potentially game-changing benefit—a domestic supply of rare earth elements.


Changing times and changing markets

Today, the United States imports nearly all its rare earth supply from China, but that hasn’t always been the case.

In the 1960s, color televisions became ubiquitous in American homes, and manufacturers required a reliable supply of the rare earth europium to make these new screens. Fortunately, bastnäsite ore, a source of many rare earths, had been discovered in the mountains of California a decade prior. Because of the increased need for rare earths, the small-scale mining operation quickly expanded into a booming industry and launched the United States as the leading global supplier of rare earths.

Near the turn of the 21st century, markets began to shift. Among other factors, competition from overseas rare earth mines eroded U.S. dominance in the rare earths market, and by 2009, China was exporting almost all the world’s supply of rare earths. While initially providing cheaper prices, reliance on a foreign supply of rare earths has made the United States vulnerable to disruptions in overseas markets, underscoring the need for a new domestic source.

A vast untouched resource

Researchers at NETL are moving from the mine to the laboratory and hope to usher in a new era of domestic rare earth supplies through innovation. Their research centers on extracting the valuable elements from coal and coal by-products—a unique solution to an important challenge.

“Coal and coal by-products represents a vast untouched resource,” said NETL Research Engineer Dr. Evan Granite.

Dr. Granite explained that the United States consumes around 16–17 thousand tons of rare earths each year, and this demand could be completely satisfied by extracting rare earths from domestic coal and coal by-products.

“For example, a typical coal contains 62 parts per million (ppm) of total rare earth elements on a whole sample basis.” Dr. Granite said. “With more than 275 billion tons of coal reserves in the United States, approximately 17 million tons of rare earth elements are present within the coal—that’s a 1,000-year supply at the current rate of consumption.”

Coal reserves are not the only potential sources of rare earths. Each year, the United States typically produces around 75-100 million tons of coal fly ash, which contains an even higher concentration of rare earths (more than 400 ppm). Furthermore, clays and shales located above and below coal seams could also serve as possible sources, because they contain approximately 200 ppm of rare earths. DOE-NETL initiated the Rare Earth Elements Program in 2014 to help secure a domestic supply of rare earths by addressing the feasibility of separating and extracting REEs from coal and coal by-products including fly ash, coal refuse, and acid mine drainage.



R&D Magazine


“For example, a typical coal contains 62 parts per million (ppm) of total rare earth elements on a whole sample basis. With more than 275 billion tons of coal reserves in the United States, approximately 17 million tons of rare earth elements are present within the coal—that’s a 1,000-year supply at the current rate of consumption.”

Dr. Evan Granite, NETL

The resurgence of the American coal industry might return the US to energy and REE production DOMINANCE.

Who would have ever guessed that the Department of Energy was actually capable of doing something useful?  MAGA!

197 thoughts on “The Resurgence of the American Coal Industry: “Is coal the new gold?”

  1. Gee… “concentrations in the 600 ppm range” are considered high, for REE!
    I guess once coal is burnt, the ash contains higher concentrations.

    • But they got a higher recovery rate from Powder River Basin ash:

      The researchers then used a common industrial extraction technique featuring nitric acid to see how much of the rare earth elements could be recovered. Coal ash from the Appalachian Mountains saw the lowest extraction percentages, while ash from the Powder River Basin saw the highest. Hsu-Kim thnks this might be because the rare earth elements in the Appalachian Mountain coal ash are encapsulated within a glassy matrix of aluminum silicates, which nitric acid doesn’t dissolve very well.

      Any idea what the recovery costs would be relative to market price?

      • I wonder if combining supercritical coal plants with contemporaneous REE recovery would assisst by avoiding the problem of encapsulation in glass.

      • The company hoping to recover rare earths in the Powder River Basin declared bankruptcy two years ago and closed their mine. I would guess the recovery cost was much higher than the market price, considering how cheaply Chinese markets can produce these materials.

      • The company that went bankrupt in the Powder River Basin was attempting to mine REE from sedimentary rock not coal.

    • Only increasing the concentration by a factor of 10? Sounds like most of the REEs are going up the flue.

    • When the US relinquished commercial REE production to China years ago, it was not because US reserves gave out. Rather it was because the cost to extract REE from their deposits was much cheaper in China. That may still be an issue, even with higher deposit REE concentrations.

      • The difference is environmental mitigation. In China, zero. In US, huge, since the REE waste stream is quite radioactive. That is how the US major Mountain Pass deposit was discovered. They were looking for uranium.

      • To affirm Rud’s comment, REE mining was driven out of the U.S. because the Thorium and Uranium fractions are considered radioactive waste instead of a fuel for ‘green energy’.

        “The production of rare earth oxides comes attached with a major problem: radioactive waste. The mining of the rare earths and the processing of the various elements produces large amounts of thorium as a byproduct. This material is radioactive and dangerous to human health. In China, lax environmental laws have allowed the country to build a monopoly in the market. “-

        Liquid Fluoride Salt Reactors turn this poison pill into a golden ‘green energy’ egg. Any wonder the Chinese are developing LFTR technology? The U.S. has stockpiles of Thorium buried as ‘waste”.

  2. Once the REE’s have been extracted, is the coal still usable as before?? Is there a loss of thermal value?

      • Perfect! Burn the coal in power stations to produce cheap energy and harvest the REEs in the flyash! Win-win!!!

      • Unfortunately, no one in their right mind would currently build a coal power plant. Even though the “clean power plan” has been suspended, it only takes one election to flush a multi-billion dollar investment down the drain.

      • If this were to prove to be an economically viable process, it could provide existing power plants with an additional income stream.

      • Kiewit construction had difficulties locating enough fly ash to rebuild the spillway for the Oroville dam this past summer. It seems the demand for fly ash is location dependent.

      • In the same way that tungsten light bulbs can still be purchased as heat globes, the new power station could be described as a REE concentration & extraction process. Like friends with benefits?

  3. It’s good to see President Trump caring about national security.

    When I was a pup, national security was a big deal. There were rules that meant that military supplies had to have more than one supplier and those suppliers had to be in different regions. The Soviets should not have been able to cripple the American military by bombing one city where all the necessary spare parts were made. By the end of my career, those rules didn’t seem to exist any more.

    We’re close to the position where China can cripple America by cutting off the supply of some strategic materials and products. As a hypothetical example, if we want to confront China over its aggression in the South China Sea, we could be stymied.

    National security is important. If America doesn’t put itself first, it will be the loser.

    • We could find ourselves somewhat in the same situation Japan found itself after bombing Pearl Harbor. We might have to win a hypothetical war in 6 months or less, because after that, we might not be able to produce needed weapons systems fast enough or at all. Furthermore, we don’t know whether devices produced in China, for example, have kill switches embedded. Seems like an unacceptable risk to put our weapons systems at risk by purchasing components from foreign producers. I suppose we would keep the nuclear option, and retain sovereignty if we lost a conventional war with a powerful country able to out-produce us. Could be we would lose territory, and not be able to do anything about it. Hawaii and California part of China, Alaska part of Russia.

    • That was the whole concept behind strategic reserves. Which various administrations on both end of the political spectrum have sold down over the years for quick cash.

  4. The reason why China was able to undercut the US in the cost of REEs is simple: they didn’t care one jot about the environmental impact of the extraction processes. Result: vast acid lakes and a poisoned environment on an epic scale. Their produce would have been much more expensive if proper environmental protection measures had been in place, measures one assumes are a pre-requisite for the extraction in the US.

    Each ‘green’ wind turbine contains a tonne of Neodymium. Nd imported from China. Not so ‘green’ after all.

      • The other name for China’s “rich alternative resources” is cheap labor and weak to nonexistent environmental regulation of many small REE mining operations.

  5. Not so sure. The Mountain Pass mine in California has 20 million tons of remaining REE reserves at an average ore concentration of 8.9%—-not 600 ppm in fly ash. The mine hasn’t operated since 2002 and owner Molycorp is in bankruptcy because of price competition from China starting in 2002 as a matter of China national strategy. China reseves total ~30 million tons and China now produces 97% of the worlds annual supply.

    • I’ll bet you know this….or know where to look
      How much REE’s do we need to produce, just for us?
      Because we don’t need to supply the world…just ourselves

      • Prepare to grow you own food, if farmers start thinking “we don’t need to supply the world…just ourselves”. Same with oil, iron and metal production, plastics, cement, any stuff, and everything made of stuff. Then you’ll be back to stone age in no time.

      • Looked it up for you as my googlefu is pretty good after three books. Souce is USGS 2017 US minerals consumption, page 134, for 2016. 16000 metric tons of rare earth oxides (REO). 100% imported. Domestic production zero. Import value $136 million.

      • Thanks Rud…you’re my go to

        Wonder if that’s enough to sustain domestic production?…..seems like it is

    • China bought the Mountain Pass mine last year…

      Mountain Pass sells for $20.5 million
      Chinese-led consortium picks up America’s only rare earths mining operation

      There are very high concentrations of light REE in the carbonitite (kind of like a carbonate granitic rock) dikes. The difference is that REE extraction from coal, related formations and coal ash would be a derivative product from rocks that were already being mined for coal. In the case of coal ash, the REE would be extracted from a waste product.

      Will the economics work? Who knows?

      • A Federal bankruptcy judge authorized the sale…

        I don’t think this was subject to CFIUS review because it wasn’t deemed to be a national security issue. Which is bizarre… CFIUS blocked the sale of Unocal to CNOOC. If the sale of an oil company to China is in our national security interests, you would think a REE mine would be. Even when CNOOC bought Canadian oil company Nexen, which has lots of US assets, the sale was conditioned on them relinquishing operatorship of their assets in Federal waters.

      • China did this to Canada. They purchase business’s like pulp mills and shut them down so they have less competition and Trudeau our prime minister lets them. They purchased copper mines in South Africa and shut them down to do the same thing. You Americans are just the latest suckers that allow the Chinese to destroy your business’s.

      • I’d like to see some actual data to support these claims. Buying viable companies only to shut them down, is a good way to lose money. Lots of it.

      • “Maybe they followed the Uranium One precedent… /Sarc”

        Except that Uranium One was bought for the Kazakhstan reserves, not this in Willow Springs, WY.

  6. Some coal basins (and hence the fly ash after burning) contain recoverable concentrations of uranium and thorium. There was a paper out of Oak Ridge decades ago about it that I can’t find right now.

    • If the recover the rare earth metal, maybe they can (probably will) capture the lead and mercury as well. After extraction of most metals then fly ash will be harmless (to so many ppm) and won’t such a concert in its disposal. That would be another win for coal, jobs, the environment and people.

      • Lead and mercury are highly volatile and exit as vapor. Cooling the flue gas is out if the question.

        [??? .mod]

      • Mod, you have to burn the coal to get the RE in the ash. The lead and mercury exit the stack as a vapour and are not captured in the ash. My point was to capture the Pb and Hg, you would need to cool the stack gas – impractical!. You could also bubble the stack gas through liquid gold to capture it.

      • T, there are a couple of tricks here. One is to source very low lead/mercury/arsenic coal. Powder River basin coal is not only low sulfur, it is reasonably low ash and very low in these trace metals. That plus it is stripmined makes it preferable. Second trick is to use activated charcoal in the flue gas stream to capture at least some of the volatile metals. That is actually done at some plants. U Kentucky CAER even has an active research program on this to find better activatiin schemes. I know because my sponsored carbons reseach was mostly done at CAER (plus some at ORNL Carderrock).

      • Flyash is already a valuable by-product used to improve concrete properties and as a partial replacement for cement. As coal use declines in many parts of the world shortages have occurred and it is imported, usually from Asia.

      • Carolina Power and Duke Energy for years dumped huge quantities of coal ash into impoundments, and some of the toxins have leaked out into groundwater or have been washed into rivers due to dyke failures. Have REE’s been extracted from the ash prior to dumping it into impoundments? Don’t know but I doubt it. Most of the coal came from W.Virginia and I don’t know the concentration of REE’s in the ash.

        Anybody know anything about this?

      • S1,there have been impoundment leaks and one dam failure—a Duke plant IIRC. No REE has been extracted from what remains because isn’t economic the way China has played the REE game.

      • We are now buying fly ash from India – it’s coming into the Port of Morehead City. I understand it will be used to make concrete.
        And Duke Energy has promised to eliminate the impoundments over time by selling it to the concrete industry, but I don’t think they expect that to be profitable.

    • One of the problems with fly-ash is that it tends to contain rather a lot of thallium. This is a very toxic substance. Getting rare-earths out of fly-ash is likely to be problematic.

      • Thallium has uses in optics, semiconductors, Medicine, High temp superconductors, and many others.
        2016 price $7,500 / kg. Might scare you like mercury does but probably worth going after.

  7. I’m sorry but this targets the resource ignorance of the general population along the lines of space mining and lignite conversion to oil with microwave mini-refineries. I could write a long diatribe on this but you need look no further than the poor shareholders and creditors who got stuck with the Mountain Pass rare earth mine on the Calif-Nev border. It was a vibrant project while it lasted and then low prices wiped them out. You can find the same calls of alarm with most commodities at one time or another. This one borders on space mining though with no real thought about markets.

      • Yeah artificially drop RE prices and pick up cheap rich resources in America! Don’t you guys have a review process for this kind of thing?

      • Gary – Of course we have a review process. The bureaucrats in the various cabinet departments do what they are told to do by politicians — and politicians do whatever the largest donor to their campaigns tells them to do. It’s all very transparent [NOT!}

    • In space you have to get there.

      We already are there and already have the tools.

      All that remains is the economics.


      ENRIQUEZ, Aaron J.1, FINNOFF, David C.1, MCLAUGHLIN, J. Fred2 and BAGDONAS, Davin A.2, (1)Department of Economics and Finance, University of Wyoming, 1000 E University Avenue, Laramie, WY 82071, (2)Carbon Management Institute, University of Wyoming, 1020 E. Lewis Street, Energy Innovation Center, Dept. 4902, 1000 E. University Ave., Laramie, WY 82071,

      The State of Wyoming is the largest producer of coal in the U.S.1 Uncertainty over the future of this resource has caused the state to recognize the importance of diversifying its mineral industry. Recent research shows a potential remedy: coal by-products, such as fly ash, can contain recoverable amounts of Rare Earth Elements (REEs). By producing REEs from fly ash, Wyoming can diversify and add to its revenue streams. There is global demand for REEs, as they are utilized in the production of a diverse array of modern goods and technology.

      Application of Net Present Value (NPV) analysis allows determination of the potential profitability of REE extraction from Wyoming coal-fired power station ash. The NPV analysis considers REE concentrations in six ash samples from two basins, the Powder River Basin and the Green River Basin. A challenge for NPV analysis of these samples is the lack of REE-from-coal-ash processing and refining cost estimates in the literature. To overcome this hurdle, the NPV analysis is structured to determine the maximum unit cost that a coal station can incur and still break even. For each station, this cost is calculated in two ways: as an input cost per pound of ash, and as an output cost per pound of Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO). In addition to the unit cost, the analysis also provides the potential revenue and maximum capital cost for each station. Subsequent sensitivity analysis then allows for comparison of the results under scenarios that range from low to high yield and low to high REE concentrations.

      With the assumptions made, five of the six coal stations have breakeven unit costs that exceed the value of 1.17 US$ per pound TREO, which is the mine-to-oxide operating cost reported by the hard-rock mine company Molycorp.2 Under these results, REE recovery from Wyoming coal by-products appears economically promising.

      • You can’t compare Molycorp costing and ash processing. The first is a high grade deposit (7% REO) as RE carbonate very easy to extract. The ash is a aluminosilicate which requires much more aggressive extraction methods, likely caustic fusion, …hmmm…unless the RE are found associated with the more soluble “reactive” silica portion. The latter makes up ~30% of fly ash (ash that goes up the chimney) but is lower in bottom ash.

        If this were the case, you would have the possibility of concentrating the RE in perhaps 1/5 of the mass of the bottom ash by being able to reject barren refractory silica! Hmmm… chemically I’m voting for this as most likely. The RE would tend go with the calcium which goes with the reactive silica portion. Gee, I hope they don’t hand this project to “sledgehammer” chemists. Can I apply for a contract with whomever is running this show?

        • Their point was that the breakeven costs in their models were higher than the operating costs of Mountain Pass in 5 of the 6 Wyoming coal sites studied.

          The estimated revenue from ash to TREO at the Jim Bridger site had a positive NPV below an extraction cost of $25.56/lb. The operating cost of Mountain Pass was $1.17/lb and it went bankrupt. At $1.17/lb, the NPV of Jim Bridger was off the top of the scale.

          Of course, this is an economic model and the actual extraction costs are unknown at this time.

  8. Al Gore will get into the action.

    If there is a large profit to be made, he will get in at some point.

    Maybe he will even have an apologia for his green crusade or some other explanation why it is ‘good’ to invest in coal. Like he is still for wind power therefore collecting rare earth metals form burnt coal is a necessary evil.

    Watch him.

      • He made about $100 million from the sale of Current TV to al Jazeera and Google & Apple stock options her received as a board member of those two companies.

        Most of the rest of his ~$300 million came from “green investments”…

        Beyond Gore’s involvement in the media business and with two of Silicon Valley’s most influential companies, a large portion of his net worth is derived from his involvement with financial services firms. A year after losing the election, Gore was named vice chairman of Metropolitan West Financial Inc., a now defunct Los Angeles-based money manager, which then had more than $50 billion in assets under management. He held that position briefly before going on to found global investment firm Generation Investment Management with former Goldman Sachs executive David Blood.

        Gore still remains chairman of Generation Investment Management, a firm dedicated to an “investment philosophy that integrates sustainability research with rigorous fundamental equity analysis,” according to its website. Sources close to the company say the London-based firm has global assets under management of nearly $7 billion, while documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveal investments in companies including Amazon, eBay, Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble.

        “We and others have called for a more responsible form of capitalism, what we call sustainable capitalism: a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process,” wrote Gore and Blood in a Wall Street Journal op-ed from December 2011.

        Perhaps the most telling sign of Gore’s rise in personal wealth can be seen from his own $35 million investment in Capricorn Investment Group, an investment manager and private equity fund founded by billionaire and former eBay President Jeffrey Skoll. In 2008, Gore invested in the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm through an LP named after his hometown of Carthage, Tenn., according to public filings.

        Gore is also actively involved with Silicon Valley venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where he has been an investing partner focusing on green technologies since 2007. A spokesperson for the venture firm declined to disclose the nature of his financial relationship with the company.

        Oddly enough… He didn’t earn a dime off of inventing the Internet.

      • “Except that Al Gore did not make his money off green investments.”

        Most of the Gore money came from tobacco.

  9. Before everyone gets too excited, carbonatites in Canada contain ~1+% RE (10,000ppm+). The California one is exceptional at 7% RE oxide. I had a client with a deposit in Quebec for which I did the initial metallurgical work – designing the RE mineral concentration scheme, extraction of RE from the concentrate and I invented a physical method for separating the individual RE elements and thorium employing the variability in magnetic susceptibility of individual RE compounds precipitating out of solution in a column (La, Lu and ever present Thorium are diamegnetic and therefore pushed away from a magnet and collected together)

    The drop in prices caused by China put this project on the shelf about 4yrs ago and refinements to the process were never completed. The relative abundance of these elements in a deposit is the critical factor in the economics. Most deposits have Cerium and Lanthanum together up to 85% and these are cheap – I haven’t looked at prices lately but they were around 30-40$/kg – maybe less. The other 15 elements average 12-20% of the total.

    Also overall recoveries are low, commonly 60% and current solvent extraction methods of separating individual elements are very expensive (for Terbium for example the immiscible solutions require several thousand cycles, a tiny amount transferred from one solution to the other each cycle). Also the large amounts of scary organic chemicals used was the reason for my research.

    My assessment of feasibility- very low for sometime into the future.Even California’s op at 7%grade (70,000ppm) is closed. They have a very complex mineral flotation concentration pricess that I’ve always thought a poor design and would loved to have a crack at redesigning it.

    Regarding Scandium, they are right about its 2000 bucks a kilo. I’ve been invited to consult on another project in the far northeast of Quebec this spring with a rare high Scandium content.

    • Thanks for your patent application reference. Really interesting. I am always interesting in how things work and how they can be made better. New knowledge.

      • Thank you Rud, If interested I have another process invention currently on its way to production. Nemaska Lithium in Quebec. I developed their mineral concentration process for their mine and their hydrometallurgical process for producing lithium hydroxide monohydrate and lithium carbonate using electricity for the first one and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the second one. A number of refinements were patented after the first one. It has won a few awards and multimillion dollar grants to the company for being green. I’m not a modern green, but I do think we can and should impact the earth as little as necessary. Turns out in this case that Nemaska will also be the cheapest producer and the products are significantly more pure than what’s available in the market today. If you click Nemaska’s technical team button you will see my old mug there.

      • Did so. Cool. Spodumene. My ex wife has some samples called hiddenite (light green) and morganite (dark pink). Of course, gem quality from Minas Gerias pegmatites in Brazil. Got the stones in Rio while spending large amounts of time consulting in Brazil for the subsidiary of a German client based there.

      • You are correct about kunzite or hiddenite. Some green hiddenite from the Quebec mine has been polished for fun. They also have transparent aquamarine (beryl) crrystals up to 2″ across and green emerald in minute crystals visible under the microscope during process work.

        Also, I just came back from Minas Gerais before Christmas where I was looking at the main lithium pegmatites around Aracuai (four aircraft and a 4 hour drive each way)! Garempeiros were extracting gem tourmaline there.

  10. Environmental Permitting Delays – 7 to 10 YEARS
    The Obama era regulations became so onerous that the average time to permit a mine has grown to 7 to 10 years. See SNL Permitting Delay Report
    By contrast, the US built the entire transcontinental railroad in 7 years – part of which was during the civil war!
    Trump’s emphasis on simplifying/reducing regulations is even more important.

    • Griff, you burn the coal and extract the enriched RE content in the ash. It is easily extracted using industrial acids. I’m doubtful it is anywhere near economic.

      • Tom Bjorklund,

        “a lot of wind turbines do not use rare earth permanent magnets”

        Are you sure about that?

        I’m not an expert but my understanding is that as they got larger (and so could produce more power) it became unrealistic to have the generation at the top of the pylon using powered magnets. Hence the change to rare earth permanent magnets because they can be used to produce smaller generation sets.

        On that basis, older / smaller wind turbines might not use rare earths but newer / larger ones do.

      • James asks, “are you sure of that?”

        Yes, you get higher magnetic field strenght with electro magnets.

        ” With a high enough amperage the electromagnet can develop a significantly stronger magnetic field than a permanent magnet.”
        It’s the reason they don’t use permanent magnets in the generators in large hydro, coal or nuclear plants. It’s the reason you don’t use them in alternators for cars.

        tty: To increase the field strength of a direct drive wind turbine, you have to increase the mass of the rotor. With an electromagnet for the rotor, you can increase the field strength with higher current. Much lighter in weight.

        • “It’s the reason you don’t use them in alternators for cars.”


          The reason you don’t use them in automotive alternators is because the field current needs to be continuously variable in order to regulate the output of the alternator.

          They ARE used in automotive starter motors however, and the size of those starter motors has decreased considerably as a result.

          Permanent-magnet Starter Motor
          Permanent magnet starters were introduced on the vehicles in the late 1980s. Less weight and small size are the two advantages of these motors, compared to conventional types. This causes the permanent magnet starter to be more popular as less space is available for engine electrical in modern cars.

          They are used in model aeroplane electric motors too, also as a result of the greatly increased flux compared to wound field motors.

          In all such applications, permanent magnets considerably reduce the size and weight compared to wound field types, hence their use in the majority of wind turbines.

      • Ah!

        which brings a thought…

        there are piles of coal ash – situated in ‘lagoons’ around the country, surely?

        No need to burn any more, just process the piles of waste which lie about???

    • The picture of the mine works great with the caption: “This where wind turbines come from”. I have a similar one on my blog, plus coal, iron, bauxite, etc mines. Everyone should know the parenting of those “clean energy” machines.

      • Ristvan, the sign Sheri was talking about said “wind turbines.” It did not say “EV’s or hybrids”

      • Tom,
        What about this

        The various markets for rare earths, as mixtures, individual elements, or compounds, have developed in a very sporadic fashion and are, essentially, a two-tiered system, Wietlisbach said. “New markets are strong and growing for individual, specialized and high-purity rare earths, particularly for neodymium, which is used in high-performance magnets (permanent magnet motors or PMs) for hybrid vehicles, offshore turbines and defense guidance systems. While the markets for mixed rare earth oxides (REOs), which formerly constituted the bulk of the business, show stagnant demand.”

      • Bryan, most onshore wind turbines do not use permanent magnets. Besides, one can make permanent magnets without rare earth elements. For example alnico. All depends on the cost/performance trade offs one makes in engineering the particular device.

      • Tom Bjorkland, all the large wind farm turbines DO use Rare Earths- mainly Neodymium (about a tonne per unit). I suspect that the false information you got was created because of the widely known environmental disaster that the Chinese RE operations are. Multiple illegal ops dig pits in the rich RE clays and simply dump in low grade sulphuric acid, leave this big pond for several days and then pump it out and precipitate rare earth carbonate. The thorium and uranium gets dumped and this stuff leaches into the soils and groundwater. I wonder if more birds are killed in the mining pr8cess than by the turbine blades? Yes that’s how 7gly these green parasites are!

      • You are wrong Gary. Most large onshore wind turbines use gearboxes, with high rpm rotors. The rotor magnets are excited electromagnets, much like the alternator in a car. Your car’s alternator doesn’t use permanet magnest because it spins fast. The offshore turbines use permanent magnet rotors because they are direct drive without gearboxes. They don’t use gearboxes offshore because of maintenance issues.

      • Thanx Tom , I’m probably out. of date. a few years ago I was on the mining side of the Rare Earth business and these turbines were the biggest market. probably climbing prices promoted substitutes.

    • One of the byproducts would be clean, cheap power for rich and poor alike, Griff. I know, horrible thought, isn’t it?

  11. Just a side note and cause for a chuckle… I note that our “good friend” Dana Nuccitelli is employed by Tetra Tech. Will he be sent to Appalachia?

  12. Won’t the big hurdle be approval for processing the REEs? Especially in the east, where your neighboring state might sue you for the pollution created from the manufacturing of products and energy that you are in turn selling to your neighboring state.

    Other economical concentrations of REEs already exist and are already unearthed and are just sitting in tailing piles all over western North America. I find it much more likely that a REE refinery be built in a state like Nevada or Wyoming than in PA.

  13. The Mountain Pass mine in California is large and high-grade yet is currently mothballed … I have collected specimens from there that have clocked around 20%REE … that’s 200,000 ppm. Think about it and ask your congressman/woman why the US sources its REE from China.

    • Because operation was losing money and the operator filed for bankruptcy… So a bankruptcy judge sold it to the Chinese.

      • Was reading this up just now. Back in 2014 when China imposed quotas in order to force more manufactuing into China, Molycorp invested ~ $1 billion to upgrade all the processes to be green and clean. $1 billion more than is spent in China. On that basis, Siemens even signed a 10 year exclusive supply contract with Molycorp for its green wind turbine needs. Then in 2016 China removed the quotas, Molycorp promptly went bankrupt, and then in mid 2017 bought the worlds best single REE deposit for just $23.5 million. Nice strategic move. Apparently the US based alternative bidder sued at CFIUS to stop the sale and got rebuffed since ‘not’ a national security risk (maybe CFIUS thinking was the mine is in California and we can always imminent domain it?). Doubt there was any CFIUS thinking at all. Looks like another dumb Uranium One deal.

        • If this was never taken up by CFIUS… it’s as dumb as Ur-1. If CFIUS approved this, particularly when there were American bidders, it’s as criminal as Ur-1.

  14. The coal has always contained trace quantities of rare earth elements…and the old Bureau of Mines worked on commercial extraction methods…It wasn’t economically feasible in the past….I doubt that today, with lots of foreign competitors it is more economically feasible than it was in the past. This is a dead issue. The science is settled………

  15. Develop thorium nuclear power and solve the RE issue at the same time. But Middleton is a fossil fuel guy come hell or high water.

    • Riiight…

      Uses of Rare Earth Elements
      Rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many devices that people use every day such as computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more.


      During the past twenty years, there has been an explosion in demand for many items that require rare earth metals. Twenty years ago there were very few cell phones in use, but the number has risen to over 7 billion in use today. The use of rare earth elements in computers has grown almost as fast as cell phones.

      Many rechargeable batteries are made with rare earth compounds. Demand for the batteries is being driven by demand for portable electronic devices such as cell phones, readers, portable computers, and cameras.


      Rare earths are used as catalysts, phosphors, and polishing compounds. These are used for air pollution control, illuminated screens on electronic devices, and the polishing of optical-quality glass. All of these products are expected to experience rising demand.


      Rare earth elements play an essential role in our national defense. The military uses night-vision goggles, precision-guided weapons, communications equipment, GPS equipment, batteries, and other defense electronics. These give the United States military an enormous advantage. Rare earth metals are key ingredients for making the very hard alloys used in armored vehicles and projectiles that shatter upon impact.

      • I know good and well what they are used for. Let these guys from the Thorium Energy Alliance explain the thorium problem in rare earth mining to you and how using the thorium waste can supply all the thorium we need for thorium molten salt reactors.

        • They don’t need to explain it to me. They have to explain it to the people and politicians who have an irrational fear of radiation.

          If you have read my posts on WUWT, you would realize that I am a strong supporter of nuclear power.

      • davidgmillsatty, that’s a sad video of the state of US energy “policy”, which has been run into the ground for 40 yrs by the politicians & greenies. Some people are fighting back as can be seen, but don’t know if that’s ever going to be enough.

  16. Purity of Sc is important, only very high 99,99% has value. I handled 4000 kg of scandium in the early nineteens.The origin as byproduct from uranium open pit mining in Kazachstan. It’s most used in space technology because of resistance to short wave length radiation.

  17. “You literally couldn’t make that up if you tried.”

    I was watching a news cast of a large transformer fire with a lime green fire truck in the foreground and the fire persons watching.

    The BPA spokesperson, Crystal Ball (I kid you not), was explaining that there were no BCBs. Fluff your blond hair one more time for the camera.

    People who do not like stero types should not reinforce.

    PCB like DDT are not very toxic or other wise hazardous was used because it was very effective.

    I would like to thank those with chemophobia for making my workplace and children’s school. Mineral oil and electrical shorts make for great fires.

    Sorry for the off topic pet peeve. Up next is DOE thinking the invasive species tumble weed need to be planted for environmental restoration. There seems to be an affinity to safety related transformers.

  18. One of the keys to assessing the prognosis of coal mines in the US, or in fact in any developed nation is this.
    Are new coal plant/ mines being built and commissioned?

    Personally, coming from a mining village in South Wales, I was deeply saddened to see 500 miners laid off in Kentucky just before Christmas .We experienced this many times over under Margaret Thatcher’s administration. Communities were devastated, towns and villages turned into welfare camps. The decision to close the mines was not wrong in principle, but the failure to invest in those communities after the closures was a disaster. Thatcher was right in that you cannot keep mining a mineral that you cannot sell and is part of the past. Keeping the mines open in the face of bad economics is never going to be a real solution. But failing to establish alternate industries and skills for those communities is an even worse disaster.
    It would be good to see Trump learn from the economic tragedies of coal mining communities in the UK, and invest in these miners, even if their mines are no longer viable. If they are led to believe there is a golden future for coal which does not materialise, their anger and despair will be so much the worse for having no alternative.

    • Trump made a campaign issue out reviving the coal industry, and whether that was motivated by anything other than a cynical ploy to get votes I do not know. But knowing Trump I would be surprised if there were any other motivation. I have heard that coal mining becomes economical if the price of natural gas rises much further, but I don’t know what that price would be. Then you get into the environmental/CO2 issues.

    • “We experienced this many times over under Margaret Thatcher’s administration.”

      Disingenuous – mendacious, in fact.

      My not so distant ancestry would be English dockers and Welsh miners, who worked in the valleys as well as southern Africa. Hence it would be assumed that I must vehemently despise the Tories, especially Thatcher. People may be rather confused to discover that I, a classical liberal, was disgusted by all those self-righteous passive aggressive people cheering the death of a frail old lady. On a tour of a mine in South Wales, I wasn’t the only person who looked rather bored and unimpressed when the tour guide diverged into a tired old rant on the evil witch who ruined the mining industry; he didn’t back up his statements with facts, but rather he had actually clearly ignored them.

      Of all the mines shut, an incredible two-thirds were shut during the rule of left-wing hero Wilson; hence most had been shut before Thatcher even became Prime Minister. In 1964, 545 mines where open, but Labour governments shut down 326 of them, more than half. When Thatcher took over, the pace of closures actually slowed, with only 6 closing in her first year as Prime Minister. Overall she only shut 154 mines over 11 years, while in just 4 years more Labour had shut more than double that number down.,51617

      • I was about to post something similar. I have had many a heated debate with Thatcher haters about coal mines and I am always shouted down when I say Wilson closed more mines than Thatcher ever did. But Gareth is right too, once the mines were closed there was nothing to back-fill.

      • You may be unsure of your history. Catweazle, it is you who are being mendacious, and in fact downright deceptive for political reasons.
        You may vaguely recall the miners strike of the 80s which tried to keep mines open under the foolish leadership of both managers and union leaders. Why was this if so many mines had been closed before ? Did you think about that? I thought not. The reason is that mines that were previously closed were mines that had run out of coal to mine, had coal that was very difficult to extract or mines that were small or very uneconomic.
        What your blessed Thatcher did was to close large modern mines that were in the main efficient, economic and in the main had large extractable reserves. So why did she do that? If Trump says this is a bad idea, why would she have thought is a good one?
        It was because her government had been brought down by a previous miners strike and she was determined it would not happen again. Coal was also cheaper to import from Poland and other Eastern bloc countries.
        The appalling effect on this action of the populations in those areas was seen as a worthwhile sacrifice which she was prepared to make to achieve her ends. The miners were dreadfully led by Scargill. and Nottinghamshire miners were fooled into supporting Thatcher, a mistake which they came to bitterly regret.
        So your view of history is pretty dodgy. If you had written a submission on economic history as an undergraduate using your argument, you would have been lucky to get an F.
        What you may like to consider, is why Thatcher, a traditional Conservative politician thought it an excellent idea to close coal mines as fast as possible, while Trump, as a another right wing politician, believes in re-opening them . You may then come to realise that it is not about coal, miners or employment. It is about politics, pure and simple.

      • Your stats sound somewhat dodgy Catweazle, so I’ve taken the opportunity to check your ‘facts’ As I mentioned, more mines were closed under Wilson than Thatcher, but does that tell the whole story? If one mine is closed that employs 50 people, and another is closed employing 2000, are those two closures comparable? So what does the evidence say.
        Unsurprisingly, many people like yourself are being highly selective with the facts. The historical data shows that while 212,000 coal mining jobs were lost under the 1964-1970 Labour Government, under Mrs. Thatcher’s 1979-1990 government, the percentage decline in jobs was actually double that.
        43 per cent of mining jobs went in the 1960s under Wilson while 80 per cent were lost under Thatcher. Also, as the trend rate of economic growth was lower under Thatcher than Wilson (just 2.8 per cent compared to 3.4 per cent) and unemployment was considerably higher throughout the 1980s than the 1960s, redundant miners had fewer alternative job options as a result of Mrs Thatcher’s stewardship of the industry. The effect of Thatchers closures was immeasurably worse than Wilson’s.

        Still have the same beliefs Catweazle regarding the effect of mine closures on Communities?

      • I joined the National Coal Board in London as a Clerk Grade ii (the lowest level of entry) on 1st Jan. 1962 as a callow youth of 19. I left at 23 with two City & Guilds qualifications in “Solid Fuel: Production, Distribution & Utilisation” by going to evening school. To my knowledge, most of the pits were closed due to geological conditions or they were worked out. In the Durham pits (N E England) many coal seams were only 2 feet tall & were worked by hand in the dark with pick & shovel, by men lying on their sides. The work could not be mechanised to any meaningful degree. The pit at Craghead in County Durham closed in 1969. & my now deceased father in law then lost his livelihood. He had gone down the pit at 13 & came up at 43, when the pit was closed. I met him in 1983. I was 40 & he was 57. He had had to work for 10 years mending roads in all weathers, but then was doing odd jobs in at Phillips Electronics in Durham, (closed in 2005).

        He barely survived a massive heart attack in 1987 & lingered 3 more years. By chance I found this video & I think it’s him at 1.06, arriving for work. His story was repeated all over the UK.

      • “Still have the same beliefs Catweazle regarding the effect of mine closures on Communities?”

        Actually, as I spent most of the 1970s working in the Yorkshire coal mining areas, I know a great deal about effects of mine closures on the mining communities.

        And I KNOW who caused the majority of the mine closures and the subsequent depopulation of the Pennine villages, so you can stick your hate-filled Commie mythological BS where the sun don’t shine.

        There were more coal mining areas in Great Britain than the Welsh vallies, you [snip] Thatcher-hater.

        Joke is, if you talked to a miner about his children’s prospects in the late 1960s, he’s say something like “our lad’s going to get an education, no way he’s going down t’pit” and ten years later, the same people were saying “where are our kids going to get jobs now t’pits have shut”.

        [Let’s keep it civil please…and that means no name calling. -mod]

      • “What your blessed Thatcher did was to close large modern mines that were in the main efficient, economic and in the main had large extractable reserves”

        The reason those surviving, efficient pits had to be closed was your great hero Crazy Arthur Scargill and his prevention of the maintenance crews accessing the pits, so the pumps failed, the pits filled with water and the machinery was all rendered unserviceable beyond recovery.

        But you’re too blinded by your hatred of all things not Hard Left ever to admit something like that.

      • “It is about politics, pure and simple.”

        To you as a Hard Lefty that may be the case.

        But to almost everyone else it’s about economics – something about which you have no idea whatsoever.

      • I joined the National Coal Board in London as a Clerk Grade ii (the lowest level of entry) on 1st Jan. 1962 as a callow youth of 19. I left at 23 with two City & Guilds qualifications in “Solid Fuel: Production, Distribution & Utilisation” by going to evening school. To my knowledge, most of the pits were closed due to geological conditions or they were worked out. In the Durham pits (N E England) many coal seams were only 2 feet tall & were worked by hand in the dark with pick & shovel, by men lying on their sides. The work could not be mechanised to any meaningful degree. The pit at Craghead in County Durham closed in 1969. & my now deceased father in law then lost his livelihood. He had gone down the pit at 13 & came up at 43, when the pit was closed. I met him in 1983. I was 40 & he was 57. He had had to work for 10 years mending roads in all weathers, but then was doing odd jobs in at Phillips Electronics in Durham, (closed in 2005).

        He barely survived a massive heart attack in 1987 & lingered 3 more years. By chance I found this video & I think it’s him at 1.06, arriving for work. His story was repeated all over the UK.

      • Ironically, the Minister of Energy (or whatever it was called) who presided over the closure of the majority of the mines was no less than the great Left wing hero Comrade Viscount Sir Anthony “call me Tony” Wedgwood-Benn Bart. who was simultaneously licensing a large increase in nuclear generation.

        Inconvenient for the Left, that.

    • Coal mines are NOT being developed in Europe – except some opencast ones…

      The last deep mined coal in UK I believe has closed; last deep mined coal in Germany closes this year.

      (visiting the S Wales towns where my grandparents lived is very sad: compared to the bustling places they were in the 1960s. On the other hand, mining was a horrible job… my great uncle was killed in a mine explosion; another great uncle started work at 14…)

      • It was indeed a dreadful job Griff. When people tell me how much they hate wind turbines, I always point out that I have never seen them lead to the early deaths of tens of thousands of men, or having slid down their mountains to kill hundreds of children at school. You can only really love the coal mining industry , coal tips and polluted rivers if you don’t actually live in the areas where it happens.

      • There is this odd cognitive dissonance regarding Conservative attitudes to coal mining and miners. Traditional right wing Tories in the UK hated miners and the mining industry due to it’s long history of left wing activity and social initiatives. But they now support Trump and his efforts to re-open coal mines and re-employ miners. They are between a rock and a hard place. What’s a traditional Tory to do these days in the face of such conflicting loyalties? As usual, it is the poor miners who will suffer as pawns in a political game.

      • “Traditional right wing Tories in the UK hated miners and the mining industry…”

        You haven’t a clue.

        The Right wing didn’t hate the miners or even the Left, the Left had – still have, come to that – more than enough hatred to go round.

        Which is why when Margaret Thatcher died there was an enormous hatefest involving street parties and all the usual Lefty activities such as breaking things and setting fire to cars, whereas when the great Lefty icon Benn – who observed that the day the USSR collapsed was the worst day of his life – died, even the Right wing treated his demise with the respect due to a man of his stature, despite the fact he had effectively damaged the mining industry far more than Margaret Thatcher ever did.

      • “Griff January 16, 2018 at 3:35 am”

        Griff, a product of coal mining and a coal mining family, living the benefits that industry brought, now wants to deprive the poor of the world the same. That’s not nice Griff.

  19. Aren’t there much higher concentrations in association with radioactives like uranium and thorium? I had gathered that China’s advantage, such as it was, was that they had fairly generous deposits that were not associated with radioactive metals.

    Also, looks like we never had rare earth metal !!!!DOMINANCE!!!!. Weird.

  20. The process is pretty straight forward for recovering REE. Its not only in Pennsylvania but you should see what were putting together in Utah around the same and revitalizing the coal industry!!!

  21. I always thought coal would be the next diamonds instead of gold (nyuk-nyuk), but you can make diamonds. You have to find gold.

  22. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” 😎

    Burn the coal, mine the ash.

    (I thought the Enviros liked recycling?)

    • All we have to do is realize that increasing trace CO2 in the air is more beneficial than it is harmful, and we are doing ourselves a favor, despite the politically-correct consensus view of a Venusian future wrought by the greed of Humanity.

  23. Analysing for metals both base and precious and REE’s in host materials with high organic backgrounds is notoriously difficult. Results are often considered unreliable to say the least. In 2004 the Indiana Geological Survey produced a report (Open-File Study 04-02) showing gold content in the Illinois Basin coal beds ranging from 1.28 ppm gold (Colchester) to 0.37 ppm (Staunton) for an average of all coal beds of 0.74 ppm gold. However, the highest average was from the Illinois Basin coals from Illinois of 1.2 ppm of gold (USGS-Coal Qual database). Now these are serious grades with serious open cuttable tonnages. The average grade is well above the 0.4 ppm gold that is common in billion tonne mines these days. No gold industry in the Illinois Basin. Nor none planned. With that amount of gold going through the power stations each year one would think the insides of the chimney stacks would be dripping with gold and pulled down on a regular basis. Having been on the wrong end of carbon enhanced assays in my time I would take all coal based analytical reports with a grain of carbon(salt).

  24. More badness for Australian coal seam gas work.

    “Dr McCarron said it was not possible to break down hospital admissions by age, gender and dates.

    “Factors for which data are unavailable are the change, if any, in the population rates of cigarette smoking and obesity, and the prior health status of residents who may have moved into (and out of) the area between 2007 and 2014,” she wrote.”

    So the cause has to be coal seam gas extraction.

    • “Factors for which data are unavailable are the change”… means they don’t have a fracking clue.

      • Exactly! Politically motivated anti-coal-anything in Queensland BECAUSE Queensland is about to be the biggest coal exporter to India. Abbots Point.

      • “Griff January 16, 2018 at 3:36 am”

        The Indians have invested in the biggest coal mine operation in Australia, it ain’t going anywhere soon no matter what you think.

  25. ah REEs. Nice. I did my PhD on that topic. As many commenters have pointed out, it’s just not going to happen any time soon. The person going around and trying to get peoples hopes up that coal mines will make additional revenue from REEs is at best wasting everyone’s time and at worst a scam.


  26. The REEs from the environmentalists will be very loud – and entertaining for those into that kind of thing.

Comments are closed.