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US to extract REEs from coal ash in bid to escape Chinese dominance?

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World Coal,

It’s a tense time between the US and China, made worse by the threat that Beijing could use its dominant position as a rare earth elements (REEs) supplier as leverage in the ongoing trade war.

To put that into perspective, China holds approximately 85% of the world REE capacity. As such, alternative processing plants would struggle to compete with China’s low costs in the future, should tension between the nation’s lessen.

Back in May, US senators introduced a legislation that would encourage the development of domestic REEs. At present, Congress is considering federal funding to develop methods of extracting REEs from coal ash, of which the US produces 80 million tpy.

The US Government has already invested in numerous coal ash extraction methods, yet none have proved to be commercially viable.

Rochester Institute of Technology Researcher Eric Williams stated: "[REEs] from coal ash is technically feasible, but [it's] not clear how much it will cost compared to other options.”

However, Williams and his team have been exploring a method using compressed CO2 to extract the REEs. This could be an affordable solution, as well as benefit the industry in the long-term as the nation transitions away from coal-fired power plants.

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