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Illinois Basin Carbon Ore, Rare Earth, and Critical Minerals Initiative
Project Number
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The Illinois Basin (IB) Carbon Ore, Rare Earth and Critical Minerals (CORE-CM) project aims to expand and transform the use of coal, coal-based resources, and waste streams from coal use in the region of the Illinois Basin to produce strategic critical elements and novel high-value, non-fuel, carbon-based products.  The overarching goal of this CORE-CM project is to evaluate the domestic occurrence of strategic elements in coal, coal-based resources, and waste streams from coal use in the region of the Illinois Basin. This project will evaluate CORE-CM resources in the IB associated with coal, coal-based resources, and waste streams, and to assess mining techniques, separation technologies, and the potential use of IB CORE-CM to develop local economies and reduce U.S. dependence on CORE-CM imports.

Specific project goals include:

  1. A basin-wide assessment of CORE-CM in coal, coal-based, and waste stream resources including availability and abundance. R&D projects for innovative waste stream technology development.
  2. Assess regional infrastructure, industries, and businesses to integrate and leverage regional attributes to spur economic growth by utilizing the basin’s CORE-CM.  
  3. Technology assessment, development, and field testing.  Identify innovative mining, processing, and separation techniques for CORE-CM. Develop innovative technologies to incorporate coal and coal waste-derived CORE-CM into high-value products.
  4. Develop Technology Innovation Centers to address and accelerate research to enable commercial deployment of IB CORE-CM resources.  Centers will focus on advanced analytics, processing, and production of CORE-CM and high-value, nonfuel, coal products.  Centers will offer advanced opportunities for education and training of the next generation of technicians, skilled workers, and STEM professionals. Centers will support public-private partnerships to advance innovative technology development and new product production.
  5. Develop a strategic stakeholder, outreach, and education program to support CORE-CM economic development activities.  Development of best practice manuals, education and training guides, and explore potential collaborations with R&D projects funded by DOE to expedite technology transfer. 

University of Illinois, Champaign, IL 61820 


CORE-CM projects develop and implement strategies that enable each specific U.S. basin to realize its full economic potential for producing Rare Earth Elements (REE), CM and high-value, nonfuel, carbon-based products from basin-contained resources. CORE-CM projects focus on the following six objectives: (1) basinal assessment of CORE-CM resources, (2) basinal strategies for reuse of waste streams, (3) basinal strategies for infrastructure, industries, and businesses, (4) technology assessment, development, and field testing, (5) technology innovation centers, and (6) stakeholder outreach and education.

Unlike other major sedimentary basins within the United States, REE and other associated critical elements in IB coal and associated strata are poorly documented despite over 100 billion tons of coal produced over the past century.  With over a billion short tons of recoverable coal and millions of tons of coal waste produced annually within the IB, this project aims to build a database of historical data, assess the data, and complete systematic analysis to fill gaps and develop a modern geochemical dataset that will be utilized for geologic models, separation technology assessment, and infrastructure planning.

For this project, the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) will conduct a basin-wide assessment of CORE-CM in coal, coal-based, and waste stream resources that will include CORE-CM availability and abundances. Additionally, the project will assess the mining practices, separation technologies, and local infrastructure necessary to produce and provide CORE-CM resources for U.S. industry and stimulate regional economic growth. The project team performing this work includes state geological surveys, regional universities, national laboratories, and industries active in the region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The IB assessment will catalog and model existing geochemical and geological data to identify areas of CORE-CM resources in the area having potential economic viability. Regional infrastructure, industries, and businesses, either existing or required to integrate and utilize CORE-CM resources in the IB, will be evaluated. A strategic stakeholder and outreach program will be designed to engage relevant industries and commercial interests. Technologies most relevant to the IB distribution and occurrence of CORE-CM in relation to mining techniques, the processing and separation of CORE-CM, and the incorporation of CORE-CM into products will be identified, characterized, and described. A technology innovation center will be developed to address IB CORE-CM-specific analytical challenges, extraction requirements, resource assessments, and product creation and will serve as a focus for outreach, industry participation, and the pursuit of commercial opportunities.


Centered within the contiguous United States, the IB and the CORE-CM resources available there have the potential to fulfill major supply chain gaps with the growing alternative energy and technology sectors while creating jobs and expanding the use of mine product and associated waste materials.  

This CORE-CM project will develop and implement strategies that enable the IB region to realize the full economic potential for producing REE, critical minerals and high-value, nonfuel, carbon-based products from basin-contained resources and further address regional demand for CORE-CM, promote economic growth, and advance a carbon-based products industry in the region.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • A relational database schema was designed and constructed for IL-CORE-CM data import and export. This database of IB coal-related information includes geologic, geographic, and industrial data.  Several thousand data were collected and assembled in a master datafile, and a combined list of sample types was created to perform the sample classifications. Within that database, there are currently 5,316 historical geochemical sample entries with over 197,803 parameters analyzed. Geochemical gap analysis has been completed with over 150 samples collected at select locations to fill gaps and complete modern geochemical analysis.  The University of Kentucky is completing the analysis.
  • A review of mining methods has been completed that includes methods and technologies capable of separating enriched REE materials at or near an operating mine-face.  A review of separation technologies has also been finalized.  Updates to the coal carbon tree have been made and a list of products available via solvent extraction has been completed. 
Current Status

Project work continues to compile publications including coal and fly ash quality and chemistry, coal mine files, and coal maps. Sample data from the various sources continue to be collected and incorporated into the database. Plans have been established to visit three large acid mine drainage sites to collect coal mine drainage samples and precipitates for analysis at multiple locations across these sites. Additional data are being collected to start resource evaluation of REE from coal mine drainage and precipitates. Coal ash site collection is starting. Heap leach capability experiments for coarse and fine coal refuse has been initiated for five sample locations across the IB. ISGS members have also teamed with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) engineering faculties to assess the perspectives of emerging REE separation technologies, such as those based on electrochemical methods and high-selectivity materials, and emerging end-use opportunities of CORE-CM materials for the development of advanced batteries, fuel cells, green hydrogen, and new energy production.  

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

David Cercone ( or 412-386-6571)
University of Illinois - Jared Freiburg ( or 217-244-2495) 

Additional Information