Primarily present in coal in the ubiquitous heavy mineral Zircon.
Geologic Distribution: Zirconium in coals is generally accepted to occur within the mineral zircon (ZrSiO4) which is usually present as very small mineral grains of detrital origin 1,2. In an unpublished study zircon was observed in 23 of 24 coal samples examined using scanning electron microscopy by the WVGES. Whole coal zirconium averaged 24.32 ppm in West Virginia coals, and correlated with slightly with ash yield and the ash related elements niobium (Nb), thorium (Th), chromium (Cr), neodymium (Nd), vanadium (V), hafnium (Hf), tantalum (Ta), lithium (Li), tin (Sn), lead (Pb), scandium (Sc), yttrium (Y) and gallium (Ga) and with rare earth element components in the mineral monazite, especially cerium (Ce), lanthanum (La), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er) and gadolinium (Gd). Highest whole coal zirconium (>80 ppm) values were confined to the southern West Virginia coal field with low and intermediate values distributed statewide.
Economic Impact: Most zirconium is used as a refractory material that can withstand heat shock such as in metallurgical furnaces 3. Zirconium is extremely resistant to the corrosive environment in nuclear reactors, and 90% of commercial Zirconium metal production is used in nuclear reactor construction 3. Zirconium oxide has a high index of refraction and is used to manufacture the gem cubic zirconia 3.
Environmental Impact: Zirconium has no detrimental environmental impact.
1. Swaine, D.J., (1990)
2. Finkelman, R.B., (1981)
3. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
|To request specific information from a Survey geologist click here.|
Page last revised: March 3, 2002
Please send questions, comments, and/or suggestions to webmaster.
Page created and maintained by: West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey Address: Mont Chateau Research Center Cheat Lake exit off I-68 P.O. Box 879 Morgantown, WV 26507-0879 Telephone: 1-800-WV-GEOLOgy (1-800-984-3656) or 304-594-2331 FAX: 304-594-2575 Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST, Monday - FridayPermission to reproduce this material is granted if acknowledgment is given to the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey.