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Missouri S&T to assist in cleaner mines

Metal Tech News - November 6, 2023

Awarded EPA grant for critical mineral waste and P2 prevention assistance at MO and AK mines.

Wanting to better understand the effects of pollution and waste related to the mining of critical minerals, a Missouri University Science and Technology team has been awarded nearly $1 million from the Environmental Protection Agency for a study in their home state and Alaska.

"The United States is facing a critical minerals crisis, and Missouri S&T is uniquely positioned to help with this issue from multiple angles," said Guang Xu, an S&T associate professor of mining engineering and principal investigator of the project. "My team's work will focus on how the mining industry can use environmentally friendly methods for mining critical minerals."

With an official list of 50 minerals and metals that pose the greatest threat to the nation's economic and national security in the event of disruption, coupled with a mad scramble to bolster domestic supply, federal agencies have been supporting countless studies to better align with the end goal of zero-carbon emissions.

With over $850,000 awarded through EPA's Pollution Prevention (P2) grant, this will fund the means to provide mining professionals with technical assistance and training to lower P2 levels associated with mining and mine waste.

P2 means reducing or eliminating pollutants from entering any waste streams or otherwise released into the environment prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal.

On EPA's website, it is further outlined – "In keeping with the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, EPA uses these grants to encourage P2 because implementing these approaches can result in reductions in toxic pollutants, the use of water, energy and other raw materials, while also lowering business costs. P2 grants are awarded to states, state entities (colleges and universities recognized as instrumentalities of the state), the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, any territory or possession of the U.S., and federally recognized tribes and intertribal consortia."

Under the P2 grant it constitutes a two-year program to train select professionals to mitigate pollutants through reducing energy and water consumption, improve operational efficiencies, and reduce hazards to human health at industrial facilities.

The S&T team, along with researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will provide on-site assistance at mine operations in their states, as well as training materials and multiple workshops and case studies that will be presented as part of industry conferences.

"We will teach and reinforce the best practices to prevent and monitor pollution caused from mine dust," said Xu. "This initiative will cover cost-effective prevention methods, such as the use of water and dust suppression filtration techniques.

"There will also be a focus on how to treat the tailings left over from mining heavy metals that have chemicals that could potentially be health hazards," he added.

Xu also states there will also be an environmental justice component to the project, as many of the mines his team is working with are in low-income areas.

Given its early stages, no list of possible mines has been given.

As one of the nation's leaders in the field of mineral recovery for over 150 years, Missouri S&T was named one of the country's 31 Tech Hubs for its work focused on critical minerals and materials used in battery technologies.

To support its efforts, the state of Missouri has also budgeted $16 million through its Department of Economic Development for fiscal year 2024 to help support critical minerals research.


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