U.S. Government Funds Projects Extracting Critical Minerals From Coal

by | 16. Feb 2024 - 09:14 | Politics

$17 million for projects producing rare earth elements and other critical raw materials across the U.S.

To strengthen the domestic supply chains of critical minerals, the U.S. Department of Energy funds three projects that extract valuable raw materials like rare earths from coal-based sources. According to a press statement, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will explore the feasibility of a fully integrated, vertical supply chain for the production of select critical minerals from coal-based sources located entirely in the state of Illinois. In addition, the two companies, Winner Water Services and Tetra Tech, will build on existing technology to explore the possibility of extracting rare earth elements used in wind turbines and electric vehicles, for example, from by-products of coal production, such as ash and underclay. The projects are funded with a total of $17 million.

Rare Earths – The Future of Coal-Mining States?

Because the U.S. relies on imports for over 80 percent of its rare earth element demand, looking for domestic sources has moved up the agenda recently. Especially in states with a long coal-mining history, efforts to repurpose old and existing mines have been going on for a while, as the critical minerals could give old and soon-to-close coal mines a second life and bring back jobs to the states that have been lost in the advent of the coal phase-out. For example, a team from West Virginia University led by Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz has made significant progress in extracting rare earth elements from acidic mine drainage and has received multiple funds to expand the project since. Other projects range from using algae to bacteria to turn mining waste into mining treasure.

Photo: iStock/Maksim Safaniuk

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