Exploring the uncertainty of machine learning models and geostatistical mapping of rare earth element potential in Indiana coals, USA

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Rare earth elements and yttrium (REEs) have a wide range of applications in high- and low-carbon technologies. The strategic significance of REEs has grown due to their expanding applications in manufacturing industries and the constrained availability of these essential resources. This research explores the applicability of machine learning models and their uncertainty for assessing the REE potential in coal beds using various coal parameters as inputs. The work focuses on developing a predictive model based on geological variables, excluding considerations related to potential shifts in the commodities market. The Indiana Coal Quality Database was used as the data source. The promising and unpromising indicators derived from the outlook coefficient of samples from the database were used as the REE potential indicator for machine learning classification models. The filter-based approach with bootstrap was used to evaluate the importance of the coal parameters and their prediction uncertainties. Four machine learning methods (linear discriminant analysis (LDA), random forest (RF), support vector machine (SVM), and artificial neural networks (ANN), a data balancing and augmentation approach (Synthetic Minority Over-sampling Technique), and bootstrap resampling techniques were used for building the models and evaluating their prediction capabilities under uncertainty. It was determined that the SVM bootstrap model with ten-times balanced and augmented data provided superior results compared with other models. Finally, stochastic spatial maps of the REE potential within the coal basin were generated using sequential indicator simulation. The spatial maps of the REE potential showed that a 29% area of the Indiana section of the Illinois coal basin has economic potential of REEs, with 90% confidence.

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International Journal of Coal Geology