Geochemistry of the Leatherwood coal in eastern Kentucky with an emphasis on enrichment and modes of occurrence of rare earth elements

James C. Hower, Cortland F. Eble, Michelle N. Johnston, Leslie F. Ruppert, Shelley D. Hopps, Tonya D. Morgan

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1 Scopus citations


The Middle Pennsylvanian (Bolsovian) Leatherwood coal in the central part of eastern Kentucky is a moderately thick, moderate-S seam that has been one of the major energy resources in the region. Much of the seam profile consists of clarain, dull clarain, and durain with some brighter lithologies at the base of the seam and in the upper portion of the coal at one site. A previous study emphasized petrographic trends. In this investigation, the geochemistry of the coal is examined. Some elements, such as Ge and Ga, are enriched at 2× and 5× the World hard coal averages in the coal lithotypes adjacent to rock (roof, floor, partings). Arsenic and other chalcophile elements (Zn, Co, Ni) tend to be concentrated at the top and bottom of the seam profiles and below partings, generally in the coals with the highest pyritic sulfur content. Manganese enrichments occur in bright clarain lithologies at one site. No coal lithology reaches a 5× the World hard coal average, but samples between the 2× and 5× World hard coal averages tend to be at the top and bottom of the coal seam. Most coal samples tend to have a light rare earth element (LREE) enrichment. The basal lithotype at all sites, though, has a heavy REE enrichment and, via inference from the Zr and TiO2 concentrations, a smaller influx of detrital minerals than the basal lithotypes in many Appalachian coals. While the nature of REE associations is complicated by the high volatile A bituminous coal rank, the relatively high concentrations of the heavy REE suggest an original, albeit possibly not exclusive, organic association for those elements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104387
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Critical elements
  • Critical minerals
  • Modes of occurrence
  • Rare earth elements
  • Yttrium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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