April 2011 Meeting

Monday, April 11, 2011
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
J.L Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex



Petrography, Environment of Deposition, and
Feasibility of Mining a Lignite from
Lauderdale County, Tennessee

Bruce Stearns
Oak Ridge, Tennessee


This presentation describes the petrography of core samples of lignite collected by the Tennessee Division of Geology from the Fort Pillow Prison Farm near the Hatchie River in Lauderdale County, TN. The core samples contained over 10 total feet of lignite from three seams from 126 to 158 feet below ground surface. The lignite deposits in this study are believed to mark the contact between the middle Eocene Claiborne Group Cockfield Formation and the base of the Jackson Formation, which represents the last extensive marine invasion of the Mississippi Embayment. Polished pellets were produced and analyzed for maceral content by reflected light and UV fluorescence. The maceral study revealed an elevated liptinite concentration ranging up to 15%, which created potential interest in mining for various uses. Proximate and ultimate analyses of the lignite, combined with the coal petrography data indicate that the environment of deposition was a broad flat fluvial marsh. The US Bureau of Mines contracted with Vanderbilt University to evaluate the potential impact of mining shallow lignites in West Tennessee. Issues were identified with slope stability, dewatering, and chemistry of the overburden.

Biographical Sketch

Bruce Stearns is currently a Project Manager with Pro2Serve in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where he assists DOE with demolition and remediation projects. Mr. Stearns graduated from Vanderbilt University with a MS in Geology in 1979 and obtained an MS in Geological Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1984. His interest in coal dates back to coal permitting and environmental compliance projects under the Small Operators Assistance Program started by the Carter Administration in the early 1980s while working for Environmental Systems Corporation. Mr. Stearns has primarily worked in the environmental field on a wide variety of site investigation and remediation projects throughout the United States. He has worked on all three sides of the environmental arena: as a Geologist researching arsenic contamination at a Superfund site for the North Dakota Department of Health, as an Environmental Engineer in the Corporate Offices of Phillips Petroleum Company, and for several environmental consulting firms over the years. Along the way he picked up several boxes of rocks he can&rsquot bear to part with, a wife with a talent for finding such rocks, and five children who firmly believe he can identify and answer any question about any rock they can find. When occasionally stumped, he refers them to Grandfather (Dr. Richard Stearns), the (still) retired Vanderbilt University Geology Professor. 


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