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DOE awards US$19 million to produce rare earth elements and critical minerals

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World Coal,

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded US$19 million for 13 projects in traditionally fossil fuel-producing communities across the country to support the production of rare earth elements and critical minerals vital to the manufacturing of batteries, magnets, and other components important to the clean energy economy. Facing persistent shortages in domestic supply, the US has been forced to rely on imported materials, leaving clean energy technology production at greater risk of disruption.

“The very same fossil fuel communities that have powered our nation for decades can be at the forefront of the clean energy economy by producing the critical minerals needed to build electric vehicles, wind turbines, and so much more,” said Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm. “By building clean energy products here at home, we’re securing the supply chain for the innovative solutions needed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – all while creating good-paying jobs in all parts of America.”

Production of rare earth elements and critical minerals, which serve as key components to several clean energy applications such as magnets in wind turbines and batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, is a prime example of how DOE is supporting regional economic growth and job creation in regions traditionally home to the fossil fuel industry.

These funding awards align with earlier recommendations of the White House Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which outlined a national roadmap to partner with local communities to ensure that the shift to a clean energy economy creates good-paying union jobs, spurs economic revitalisation, and supports workers.

“The coal industry downturn has left many West Virginians without the good-paying jobs they once relied on, which has negatively impacted our state economy. I am pleased that DOE is investing in West Virginia University’s (WVU) Mid-Appalachian Carbon Ore, Rare Earth and Critical Minerals Initiative, which will work to expand and transition coal resources to other high-value products,” said US Senator, Joe Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Not only will this project create innovative solutions for a cleaner energy future, but it will also spur economic growth and create good-paying jobs in the Mountain State. As Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I will continue to advocate for funding and resources to support research projects in West Virginia and across the US that help our coal communities.”

“I commend Penn State for its work to receive this grant,” added US Senator, Bob Casey. “Penn State’s world class research is a source of pride in the Commonwealth. Once again, its students and community of scholars has distinguished itself in the clean energy field. I have no doubt that this research will contribute to our nation’s development of clean energy.”

“I am pleased Virginia Tech’s Center for Coal and Energy Research will receive federal funding to advance their research of natural resources found right here in the Commonwealth and help discover innovative uses for these resources,” said US Senator, Mark Warner. “This project will not only increase environmental sustainability in our communities, it will also help boost economic and job opportunity in the region.”

“North Dakota provides a vast array of critical resources for the US,” commented US Senator, John Hoeven. “This grant will support the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center’s efforts to continue advancing the production of rare-earth elements, critical minerals and other carbon products from North Dakota lignite coal. This is vital as we continue adding value to our abundant lignite coal resources, enhancing domestic production to reduce reliance on foreign imports and supporting economic growth across the region.”

“West Virginia has a great opportunity to become a leader in rare earth element and critical mineral production. With a focus on new technology, we can extract elements essential to manufacturing, technology, and energy production from acid mine drainage in our communities. Efforts like this will help revitalise localities in our state, while also cleaning up abandon mine sites. Last year, I authored language in the National Defense Authorization Act to encourage the Department of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the domestic supply chain and expansion of stockpiling these elements, and I’m thrilled to see WVU become the recipient of additional funding. I have also helped introduce legislation to improve the quality and timeliness of critical mineral production permitting on federal land. Taking advantage of this opportunity is vital to the future of West Virginia. I’m confident that WVU will continue to expand our understanding and operations in the field of rare earth element and critical mineral extraction,” said US Senator, Shelley Moore Capito.

“China’s near monopoly over rare earth metals makes the rest of the world dependent on them. With this funding, Utah will continue to play a vital role in US’ production of rare earth metals and critical minerals, which will help rebuild our supply chain and decrease our dependence on China. Importantly, these projects will also create new jobs and spur economic growth for communities in the Uintah Basin,” added US Senator, Mitt Romney.

“The work at the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research has led to exciting breakthroughs in tapping sources of the rare earth minerals so integral to modern technology, used in everything from advanced batteries to smartphones,” concluded US Representative, Morgan Griffith. “DOE’s award advances research that could support jobs in Appalachia and shore up supply chains vital to our country’s security and economic growth.”

Selected projects fall under 12 areas of interest, corresponding to the selected US basins that have the potential to produce rare earth elements and critical minerals:

  • Appalachian Basin – North (Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia): Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pennsylvania) aims to assess and catalogue Northern Appalachian Basin rare earth elements and critical minerals resources and waste streams, develop strategies to recover minerals from these streams, and assess the infrastructure, industries and businesses in the Northern Appalachian Basin to determine supply chain gaps. DOE Funding: US$1 204 129.
  • Appalachian Basin – Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia): Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia). The Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech plans to promote regional economic growth and foster new job creation by accelerating the extraction and processing of rare earth elements and critical minerals resources from coal, coal sediments, coal ash, coal refuse and impoundments, acid mine drainage and other basin-specific resources in the Central Appalachian region. DOE Funding: US$1 499 999.
  • Appalachian Basin – South (Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee): Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation (Knoxville, Tennessee) aims to develop and deploy new technologies for manufacturing rare earth elements, critical minerals and valuable non-fuel, carbon-based products from coal and/or coal waste in the South Appalachian Basin, thus revitalising distressed South Appalachian coal communities, reducing reliance on foreign imports, and creating advanced manufacturing jobs producing coal-derived products. DOE Funding: US$1 499 997.
  • San Juan River-Raton-Black Mesa Basin (Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico): New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, New Mexico) plans to determine the rare earth elements and critical minerals resource potential in coal and related stratigraphic units in the San Juan and Raton basins in New Mexico. DOE Funding: US$1 483 787.
  • Illinois Basin (Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee): Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Champaign, Illinois) aims to lead a project to evaluate the domestic occurrence of strategic elements in coal, coal-based resources and waste streams from coal use. The project will assess mining techniques and state-of-the-art separation and mineral extraction technologies. DOE Funding: US$1 499 987.
  • Williston Basin (Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota): University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota) plans to lead a coalition to drive the expansion and transformation of coal and coal-based resource usage within the Williston Basin to extract rare earth elements and critical minerals and produce non-fuel carbon-based products. DOE Funding: US$1.5 million.
  • Powder River Basin (Montana and Wyoming): University of Wyoming (Laramie, Wyoming) aims to provide an economic benefit to the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana by stimulating new resource development around the nation’s largest coal mines. DOE Funding: US$1 499 817.
  • Uinta River Basin (Colorado and Utah): University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah) plans to quantify, assess, and plan to enable the transformation of Uinta Basin earth resources such as coal, oil shale, resin, rare earth elements and critical materials into high value metal, mineral and carbon-based products that can be used in advanced products such as carbon fiber composites in aircraft and high-powered magnets and batteries in electric vehicles. DOE Funding: US$1.5 million.
  • Green River – Wind River Basin (Colorado and Wyoming): University of Wyoming (Laramie, Wyoming) aims to develop and catalyse regional economic growth, job creation, and technology innovation in the Greater Green River Basin/Wind River Basin of Wyoming and Colorado by increasing the supply of rare earth elements and critical minerals to manufacturers of non-fuel carbon based products and products reliant upon critical minerals. DOE Funding: US$1 499 647.
  • Gulf Coast Basin (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas): The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas) plans to quantify coal from mines and coal ash from power plant resources and refuse as feedstocks for rare earth elements and critical minerals within the US Gulf Coast Basin. DOE Funding: US$1 497 376.
  • Alaska: University of Alaska Fairbanks aims to reduce our nation’s reliance on imported rare earth elements and critical minerals by establishing Alaska’s resources as competitive sources of supply. DOE Funding: US$1 499 808.
  • Other: University of Kansas Center for Research Inc. (Lawrence, Kansas) plans to study the feasibility of recovering critical minerals from coal and associated strata in the Cherokee-Forest City Basin encompassing Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation. DOE Funding: US$1.5 million.
  • Other: West Virginia University Research Corporation (Morgantown, West Virginia) aims to focus on the expansion and transformation of the use of coal and coal-based resources, including waste streams, to produce products of high value to the 21st century energy and manufacturing ecosystem. DOE Funding: US$1.5 million.

Projects will be managed by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

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