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Locked deep under the Iron Range, helium could float a startup company

A tiny Canadian company is hoping Minnesota's Iron Range could be the next source of a globally sought-after element - helium.

Far from simply giving lift to balloons, the noble gas has become an essential ingredient in space exploration, semiconductor chip manufacturing and some medical imaging. Large pockets are rare, but by chance, drillers looking for platinum and palladium stumbled on what might be a major reservoir locked more than 1,700 feet underground near Babbitt.

That discovery in 2011 made the region part of a global hunt for the gas, which is becoming more expensive as U.S. supplies dwindle. The British Columbia-based company Pulsar Helium started its own drilling in the same area this month in an effort to see if the chance finding can turn into a viable business.


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