Detection and Relative Quantification of Neodymium in Sillai Patti Carbonatite Using Decision Tree Classification of the Hyperspectral Data

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Oct 5;22(19):7537. doi: 10.3390/s22197537.


A recent increase in the importance of Rare Earth Elements (REEs), proportional to advancements in modern technology, green energy, and defense, has urged researchers to look for more sophisticated and efficient exploration methods for their host rocks, such as carbonatites. Hyperspectral remote sensing has long been recognized as having great potential to identify the REEs based on their sharp and distinctive absorption features in the visible near-infrared (VNIR) and shortwave infrared (SWIR) electromagnetic spectral profiles. For instance, neodymium (Nd), one of the most abundant Light Rare Earth Elements (LREEs), has among the most distinctive absorption features of REEs in the VNIR part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Centered at ~580, ~745, ~810, and ~870 nm in the VNIR, the positions of these absorption features have been proved to be independent of the mineralogy that hosts Nd, and the features can be observed in samples as low in Nd as 1000 ppm. In this study, a neodymium index (NI) is proposed based on the 810 nm absorption feature and tested on the hyperspectral images of the Sillai Patai carbonatite samples to identify Nd pixels and to decipher the relative concentration of Nd in the samples based on the depth of the absorption feature. A preliminary spectral study of the carbonatite samples was carried out using a spectroradiometer to determine the presence of Nd in the samples. Only two of the absorption features of Nd, centered at ~745 and ~810 nm, are prominent in the Nd-rich samples. The other absorption features are either weak or suppressed by the featureless spectra of the associated minerals. Similar absorption features are found in the VNIR and SWIR images of the rock samples captured by the laboratory-based hyperspectral cameras that are processed through Minimum Noise Fraction (MNF) and Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) to filter the signal and noise from the reflectance data. An RGB false-color composite of continuum-removed VNIR reflectance bands covering wavelengths of 587.5, 747.91, and 810.25 nm efficiently displayed the spatial distribution of Nd-rich hotspots in the hyperspectral image. The depth of the 810 nm absorption feature, which corresponds to the concentration of Nd in a pixel, is comparatively greater in these zones and is quantified using the proposed NI such that the deeper the absorption feature, the higher the NI. To quantify the Nd-rich pixels in the continuum-removed VNIR images, different threshold values of NI are introduced into a decision tree classifier which generates the number of pixels in each class. The strength of the proposed NI coupled with the decision tree classifier is further supported by the accuracy assessment of the classified images generating the Kappa coefficient of 0.82. Comparing the results of the remote sensing data obtained in this study with some of the previously published studies suggests that the Sillai Patti carbonatite is rich in Nd and associated REEs, with some parts of the samples as high in Nd concentration as 1000 ppm.

Keywords: Rare Earth Elements; Sillai Patti; carbonatite; decision tree classification; hyperspectral imaging; neodymium; neodymium index.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Trees
  • Minerals*
  • Neodymium*


  • Minerals
  • Neodymium

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.