WVGES Trace Elements in West Virginia Coals

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Niobium Stratigraphic DistributionNiobium Geographic DistributionNiobium Summary Statistics

Niobium is a trace element in West Virginia coals with no effects on the environment.

Geologic Distribution:  The mode of occurrence of Niobium in coal is unknown, but is probably associated with both the organic and inorganic phases of coal 1.  Nb may also be associated with the mineral rutile (TiO2) 2.  Mean Nb on a whole coal basis in West Virginia coals was 3.21 ppm.  Niobium statistically correlated slightly with ash yield but well with the ash related elements zirconium (Zr), tantalum (Ta), chromium (Cr), hafnium (Hf), vanadium (V), thorium (Th), lithium (Li), scandium (Sc), lead (Pb) and tin (Sn).  Niobium also correlated with rare earth elements found in the detrital mineral monazite, especially neodymium (Nd), dysprosium (Dy), lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce) and erbium (Er). High niobium values were observed in the Bakerstown coal in the eastern panhandle (see cautionary note page) and No. 5 Block, Stockton and Coalburg coals in southern WV.  The Pittsburgh and Redstone coals of the Monongahela group contained low Nb values. Most coal samples contained less than 5 ppm Nb, but a distinct trend of low Nb in the lower half of the Pennsylvanian and higher and variable Nb in the upper half of the Pennsylvanian in West Virginia coals remains unexplained because the mode of occurrence of Nb in coal is unknown.

Economic Impact: Niobium in coal has no economic impact. Nb is used in steel alloys used in pipeline construction, in arc welding rods used with stainless steel, and used in advanced air frame construction 3.

Environmental Impact: Niobium has no known harmful environmental effects 1.

    1. Swaine, D.J., (1990)
    2. Finkelman, R.B., (1981)
    3. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
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