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By Shane Lasley
Metal Tech News 

From coal basins to critical mineral mines

DOE is funding programs in coal producing regions across US Metal Tech News – May 3, 2021

 

Last updated 5/3/2021 at 12:19am

coal mines United States repurposed critical minerals DOE Jennifer Granholm

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Appalachia was once a booming town that served as the hub of eight coal camps in Virginia. DOE is funding programs that may revitalize old coal mining towns while providing new domestic sources of rare earths and other critical minerals.

Looking to transform old coal mining regions into new domestic sources for rare earths and critical minerals vital to electric vehicles, renewable energy, and other technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $19 million for 13 projects in traditionally fossil fuel-producing communities from Appalachia to Alaska.

"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 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."

DOE says this funding aligns with 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 revitalization, and supports workers.

In addition to funding the extraction of critical minerals from coal, based on the recommendation of this working group, DOE has committed $75 million to engineer carbon capture projects and $15 million for geothermal energy research.

The $19 million funding announced by DOE on April 29 includes selected projects in 12 coal-producing areas that have the potential to produce rare earth elements and critical minerals:

Appalachian Basin Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia): Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University were awarded $1.5 million of funding from DOE. 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.

Appalachian Basin South (Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee): Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation aims to develop and deploy new technologies for manufacturing rare earth elements, critical minerals and valuable non-fuel, carbon-based products from coal and coal waste in the South Appalachian Basin, thus revitalizing distressed South Appalachian coal communities, reducing reliance on foreign imports, and creating advanced manufacturing jobs producing coal-derived products. DOE is funding $1.2 million toward this research.

Appalachian Basin North (Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia): Pennsylvania State University aims to assess and catalog 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 is funding $1.2 million toward this research.

Illinois Basin (Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee): Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois received $1.5 million in DOE funding for 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.

Williston Basin (Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota): University of 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 nonfuel carbon-based products. DOE is funding $1.5 million toward this effort.

Gulf Coast Basin (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas): The University of Texas at Austin is receiving $1.5 million in DOE funding to advance its 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 U.S. Gulf Coast Basin.

Cherokee-Forest City Basin (Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Osage Nation): University of Kansas Center for Research Inc. 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 is funding $1.5 million toward this research.

San Juan River-Raton-Black Mesa Basin (Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico): New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 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 is funding $1.5 million toward this work.

Uinta River Basin (Colorado and Utah): University of Utah plans to carry out research to support the potential 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 is funding $1.5 million toward University of Utah's efforts to assess and quantify these resources in the Uinta River Basin.

Wind River Basin (Colorado and Wyoming): University of Wyoming aims to develop and catalyze 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 is funding $1.5 million toward this effort.

Powder River Basin (Montana and Wyoming): University of Wyoming is receiving $1.5 million toward its efforts 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.

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 is funding $1.5 million for this program.

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The programs being funded by DOE also include research into recovering rare earths and critical minerals from coal ash left behind from more than a century of burning coal in the U.S.

West Virginia: West Virginia University Research Corporation 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 is funding $1.5 million toward this effort.

"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 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 U.S. 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."

These projects will be managed by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

With more than 13 years of covering mining, Shane has become renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.

Email: [email protected]
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