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Critical Minerals in Coaly Strata of the Cherokee-Forest City Basin
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The overall objective of this project is to integrate new and legacy critical mineral (CM) geochemical data with new basin-wide stratigraphic correlations of coal resources and genetically related strata within the greater Cherokee-Forest City Basin (CFCB) which encompasses parts of Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Osage Nation. Analyses will include new and/or existing drill cores located throughout the basin and assays from coal mine waste sites in historic mine districts to assess the rare earth elements (REE) and critical mineral potential within the region. This project will also test a novel downhole elemental analysis tool at several new and/or existing well localities that are proximal and reliably correlated to drill cores.


University of Kansas Center for Research, Lawrence, KS, 66045


This project leverages previous and ongoing geologic assessments by United States Geological Survey-funded projects looking at REE and critical minerals within aluminum-rich underclays and phosphatic black shales of similar age. Current and ongoing bio-chemostratigraphic analyses and recalibration of stratigraphic correlations in the CFCB region, and accompanying new constructed basin models, will also be leveraged for interpretation of acquired data.

This study will encompass: (1) a basinal assessment of carbon ore, rare earth, and critical mineral (CORE-CM) resources, including aggregation of historical data, new depositional and structural modeling, and CORE-CM resource assessment; (2) development of a basinal strategy for reuse of waste streams and assist in the development of necessary infrastructure needed to mine and process both natural and waste REE/critical mineral materials; (3) development of a technology assessment and field-testing plan to identify technology gaps associated with the mining process and ways in which the mining technique may be improved; (4) planning for a technology innovation center that fosters public-private partnerships (providing a nucleus of expertise and facilities) that are focused on rapid commercialization of CORE-CM resources within the basin and identification of emerging technologies that can incorporate coal and coal by-products as a feedstock; and (5) development of a stakeholder outreach and education plan that will include educational forums, workshops, digital media, and publications.


CORE-CM projects will develop and implement strategies that enable each specific basin to realize its full economic potential for producing REE, CM and high-value, nonfuel, carbon-based products from basin-contained resources. This study has the potential to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign sources of critical minerals that are essential for electronics, renewable energy technologies, advanced manufacturing, and defense applications. It could also provide coal mines with additional markets for their product, transforming coal from something that is burned into a 21st century feedstock for advanced manufacturing.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • Multiple drill cores have been described in Kansas and prepared for geochemical analysis. In some cases, coal samples that were removed from cores have been re-inserted to prepare for geochemical analysis.
  • The new Geotek core scanner has arrived, assembled, and commissioned. This will automate geochemical analysis of drill cores for CMs.
Current Status

Stratigraphic and structural modeling of Pennsylvanian strata across Eastern Kansas is being conducted and stratigraphic correlation transects continue to be under construction in digital software for Kansas. Data are being collected to extend to surrounding jurisdictions. In addition, automated ways to fill in stratigraphic horizon picks between transect lines is being researched. Research and development of geochemical methods for analyzing coals, associated strata and waste materials has continued. This has included discussions with subject matter experts in government, academia, and industry. Partner states have also begun compiling coal sample collections for geochemical analyses.

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Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Scott Beautz ( or 918-497-8766)
University of Kansas ( or 785-864-2178)