Approximately 20 kg of the Herrin (No. 6) coal was collected from a strip mine in St. Clair County, Ill. A 10-kg portion was ground to -60 mesh, homogenized, and riffled into 128 splits of 70-80 g each. Homogeneity of these splits was confirmed by moisture, ash, and sulfur analyses of six randomly selected splits. Results of these analyses were within the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) guidelines for interlaboratory precision. Splits of the Herrin (No. 6) coal were then transmitted to more than 30 laboratories for analysis.
Low-temperature plasma oxidation was used to isolate inorganic matter for quantitative chemical and mineralogical analysis. Despite a wide variation in ashing conditions, only minor variations in ash yields were obtained; these variations were attributed to differences in operating temperature and moisture content. Mineralogical analyses of low-temperature ash (LTA) concentrates prepared by five different laboratories indicated variations within the limits of analytical error. The mean values, in weight percent, for the major minerals are as follows: calcite, 9; quartz, 20; pyrite, 23; kaolinite, 14; and illite+mixed-layer clays, 31. Normative mineralogical calculations and Fourier transform infrared analysis (FTIR) yielded results similar to those obtained from X-ray diffraction (XRD). Choosing appropriate mineral standards was found to be critical for the proper use of analytical techniques such as XRD and FTIR.
Good interlaboratory agreement was obtained for most major, minor, and trace elements despite differences in analytical procedures and in the type of sample analyzed (coal, high-temperature ash, or LTA). Discrepancies between analyses for zinc, strontium, manganese, and iron may be attributed to sampling inhomogeneity problems. Mossbauer spectroscopy showed that approximately 44 percent of the pyritic sulfur was lost through weathering in the first year after preparation of the interlaboratory sample. Szomolnokite and possibly coquimbite and jarosite were also identified. Scanning electron microscopy studies indicated ubiquitous pyrite framboids and, less commonly, euhedral crystals, skeletal grains, irregularly shaped particles, and vein fillings. Minor accessory minerals such as rare-earth phosphates and possibly silicates, zircon, barium sulfate, titanium oxide, and sphalerite were also found. The textural evidence indicates that the minerals in the banded material are detrital whereas the minerals occurring as vein and pore fillings are authigenic. Magnetic measurements indicate that coal crushed in a steel pulverizer is contaminated by small quantities of abrasion fragments from the crusher, which seriously affect the measured magnetic properties of the coal.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Interlaboratory comparison of mineral constituents in a sample from the Herrin (No. 6) coal bed from Illinois