NUST MISiS: Strategic Reserves of Germanium Will be Counted Using a New Method

Siberian Coal Energy Company and the National University of Science and Technology MISIS opened at the Novoshakhtinskoye coal-cut enterprise a unique laboratory for determining the content of germanium in coal. Reserves of germanium will be counted using the new technology and using the new methodology developed at NUST MISIS.

Germanium is a rare-earth chemical element, an associated component of certain coals, related to strategic mineral raw materials used in radio electronics to create thermal imaging and fiber optics, including those used in the space industry. The export of such materials is strictly controlled by the state, and special requirements are made for accounting for strategic reserves of germanium.

Germanium reserves are strictly controlled by industrial reserves of natural resources of the country when it is contained in rocks starting from 50 grams per ton. In the coals and rocks of the Pavlovskoye coal deposit, which is the main Russian deposit of germanium, its average content is about 400-450 grams per ton, and in some areas it reaches 2 kg.

Previously, the composition of impurities in coal was for the most part determined at specialized research institutes and was a technologically complex, lengthy, and rather dangerous process, since methods using highly concentrated mineral acids were used, which required increased safety measures and the disposal of toxic waste.

The laboratory, opened in the Novoshakhtinskoye open-mine enterprise LLC “Primorskugol”, which mines the Pavlovskoye coal deposit, will determine the reserves of germanium using new modern technology. Its main advantage and difference from the traditional method is the use of high-tech spectral equipment manufactured in Russia, which allows to significantly increase the accuracy of the analysis results and eliminate aggressive chemical reagents.

“This laboratory is unique. For the first time in Russia, a production structure has been created at the mining enterprise, the purpose of which is to study the microelement composition of coal with maximum accuracy”, emphasizes Sergei Silyutin, Head of the Coal Quality and Enrichment Department at SUEK.

In order to develop the methodological base, experts from the Laboratory “Coal Physics and Chemistry” of NUST MISIS were involved. Its head, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor Svetlana Epstein , considers the opening of the laboratory in Novoshakhtinskoye to be a transition to a whole new level of counting Russian reserves of germanium.

"Monitoring the concentration of germanium during its extraction and processing requires the use of modern analytical equipment and reliable metrological support. This minimizes the loss of valuable raw materials during mining and ensures efficient processing. The opened laboratory has the most modern equipment, which suggests that the people who will work here will be equal to the employees of research institutes,“Svetlana Epstein emphasizes. “In their research, they will be able to solve a wider range of problems.”

The new methodology became the basis for the development of state standard samples of the approved type of content of germanium in coals, which are registered and added to the Federal Information Fund for ensuring the uniformity of measurements. This is important for observing the quality and reliability of the work on the determination of germanium in coals, their burdening and the correct preparation of product quality certificates. The technique is fully provided with metrological accuracy control tools. Specialists from the Ural Research Institute of Metrology also took an active part in its development.

“The opening of such a laboratory is the first step towards the development of the enterprise as part of the implementation of a long-term strategy,” said Andrei Dyakonov, CEO of Novoshakhtinskoye LLC “Primorskugol”.

Undoubtedly, such a structure opens up new prospects for the enterprise, as it will allow to start research on the presence of rare-earth metals contained in coal."