A two-year study by the North Dakota Geological Survey found evidence that the state's lignite layers contain some of the highest concentrations of rare earth elements in the U.S., the Williston (N.D.) Herald reported.
The study, which was based on samples collected from several locations in southwestern North Dakota counties, found that the elements tend to be of the heavier, more valuable variety, such as scandium, which is selling for about $4,600 per kilogram, the report said, citing North Dakota Survey geologist Ned Kruger.
Overall, the samples ranked in the top 20 of coal samples nationwide, the report said.
A study released earlier this week by the U.S. Geological Survey said the country has become reliant on foreign nations for 20 of 23 minerals deemed essential for the country's national economy and national security, prompting President Donald Trump to issue an executive order calling for expediting the permitting process to make way for exploration, production and other processes.
The minerals, used to make everything from batteries and computer chips to military equipment, include cobalt, lithium, graphite and rare earth elements.
Sen. Joe Manchin has called for the development of a domestic source of rare earth elements and introduced a bill, the Rare Earth Element Advanced Coal Technologies Act, that would authorize an annual $20 million appropriation to the National Energy Technology Laboratory to continue to work on rare earth elements extraction technology.
The U.S. Department of Energy allotted $17.4 million in August to four projects chosen to move to a second phase of research into extracting rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts.