North Dakota companies research rare earth elements supply

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota coal companies are looking into solving the nation’s supply problem of rare earth elements.

The Bismarck Tribune ( ) reports rare earth elements make up a $7 trillion market and support $500 to $600 billion in other industries globally.

Magnets, hard drives, alloys, batteries, lasers, wind turbines and solar panels depend on rare earth elements — and could, in turn, depend on lignite coal.

Now, the Lignite Research Council is funding research to find the value in lignite coal after 60-million-year-old volcanic eruptions and associated ash led to a concentration of elements in North Dakota.

The U.S. imports the elements mostly from China, which controls 85 to 90 percent of the world’s supply. It’s expected to run out in 15 years.

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