Critical Minerals: U.S. Government Bolsters Domestic Supply Chain

by | 14. Jul 2023 - 10:16 | Politics

$32 million will be allocated to projects producing critical minerals from domestic coal-based resources.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced to allocate $32 million to fund domestic critical minerals production facilities. The funding aims to strengthen supply chains, reduce reliance on foreign sources, and support clean energy technologies, according to a statement by the DOE. Coal-based resources, including coal waste, hold valuable critical minerals such as rare earth elements (REE). The funding opportunity seeks to establish facilities for the domestic production and refining of critical minerals. The initiative aligns with President Biden’s climate agenda and simultaneously aims to create jobs in the industry. The push is funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and follows similar initiatives the DOE has already invested over $41 million in since January 2021.

Former Coal-Mining Regions Could Position Themselves to Become REE Producers

Former coal-mining regions have faced challenges due to declining coal production. In the Appalachian region alone, the industry experienced a loss of more than 37,000 jobs from 2011 to 2021, as reported by the Appalachian Regional Commission (PDF). Moreover, these former mines are leaving an alarming environmental legacy behind contaminating nearby water sources. However, coal mines and especially their tailings contain valuable critical minerals like REEs. Researchers are hence searching for ways to mitigate the environmental impact of coal mining and its waste while incorporating the economic benefit of recovering critical minerals. For example, a team led by Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the Water Research Institute at West Virginia University, has recently received $8 million in funding from the DOE to explore the feasibility of a large-scale version of a project extracting REEs from acidic mine drainage. The now-announced $32 million could fund similar projects and bolster the domestic critical mineral supply chain.

Photo: iStock/EvgenyMiroshnichenko

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