Researchers plan to spend the next year looking at whether it might be possible to recover some of the rare elements used to make magnets for electric motors and cell phones, batteries, and other high-tech products from North Dakota’s coal seams.

It has already been proven that some rare earth elements and other critical minerals can be found in the state’s coal, but it is not clear whether there are enough of those elements to make it economical to produce them.

Currently, most of the world’s supply of rare earth elements comes from China.

Being able to also produce rare earth elements would help coal mining companies that face competition from natural gas and concerns about how burning the fuel produces greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change.