Mineral Characterization

Mineralogy Lab Overview

State-of-the-art mineral characterization capabilities occur at both the Duluth and Coleraine Natural Resources Research Institute locations.

Mineral Characterization Lab at NRRI Coleraine Facility

The mineralogy laboratory in Coleraine is housed in its own building and contains the latest technological equipment for both mineral sample preparation and characterization work including, but not limited to:

  • X‐Ray Diffraction (XRD) – identification and quantification/refinement of mineral phases
  • Energy Dispersive X‐Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (EDXRF) – identification of elemental components
  • Production of polished sample mounts for microscopy – rocks, rock grains, powders, taconite pellets
  • Preparation of iron ore taconite pellets for characterization/troubleshooting

Mineralogy Safety Screening Protocol

All incoming mineral/material samples into the Coleraine NRRI are screened through a “Mineral Safety Screening” (MSS) Program (radiation, asbestos, heavy metals, etc.) to insure the safety of University employees and labs.

Mineral Characterization Lab at NRRI Duluth Facility

In Duluth, the mineralogy laboratories comprise an advanced microscopy laboratory and an aerosol particle laboratory. The microscopy lab offers four polarized‐light petrographic microscopes (transmitted and reflective-light capabilities) for the identification, characterization of mineral phases, alterations and textural relationships. Each of the microscopes is connected to computer file servers and outfitted with advanced photomicrographic capabilities. The most advanced microscope possesses automated navigation and correlative analytics that allow quantitative analysis between mineral phases.

Also in Duluth, the particle laboratory is a “clean” lab dedicated to the gravimetric analysis and characterization of particulate matter (mineral dust) that has been collected using cascade impactor or high‐volume aerosol samplers. This lab is complete with a biosafety cabinet for work involving potential hazardous‐containing particulate matter (asbestos, respirable silica, heavy metals, etc.), and a microbalance accurate to one‐millionth of a gram.

Lab Goals

  • Provide safe and accurate mineral/material characterization for research
  • Continue to be a “Go to” source for research and industry 

Program Impact, Capabilities and Expertise

  • Expert geologists and petrographers
  • State of the art instrumentation
  • Skilled technicians

Recent Projects

  • LCCMR Western Mesabi Iron Resources of the Future (2019-21) | Iron Ore Mining Industry – NE Minnesota
  • Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study (2008-14) | University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Mining Companies, MN Legislators, Local, State and Federal Agencies