The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated up to $30 million to support the cost reduction related to extracting rare earths and other essential minerals and materials from domestic coal-based sources within the country.
The financial support, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, aims to address the increasing requirement for critical minerals in the U.S. while diminishing the need for overseas sources.
These critical minerals, including rare earth minerals, play a significant role in clean energy technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells.
The process of extracting such substances from coal, as well as from coal waste and related secondary products, is expected to generate well-compensated employment opportunities in regions that have traditionally been involved in the production of fuel and electricity from fossil energy sources.
Starting from January 2021, the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) within the DOE has unveiled approximately $41 million worth of initiatives to bolster the exploration, identification, production, and processing of critical minerals and materials. These efforts are concentrated in regions with a history of conventional mining and fossil fuel production across the United States.
Among these funds is $16 million provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, designated for comprehensive engineering and cost studies. These studies are directed towards establishing a novel domestic facility that will focus on extracting and separating rare earth elements and essential minerals from non-traditional sources like mining leftovers.
The financial backing is expected to open up land and water restoration prospects while generating rare earth elements essential for powering a clean energy-driven economy.
As per information provided by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Mineral Information Center, more than 80% of the rare earth elements required by the United States are imported from international sources rather than being sourced domestically. Despite this, rare earth elements are naturally present in various locations, including within the country’s coal and coal byproducts.
The announcement for funding aims to harness this typical resource to establish a self-reliant supply chain within the United States. This is deemed essential for the nation’s economic stability, advancement in clean energy, and overall national security.
The initiative’s primary goal is to financially support research for laboratory and bench-scale testing of both economically feasible and environmentally sound extraction, separation, and refining technologies. These efforts will commence with the exploration of non-traditional coal-related resources, ultimately resulting in the production of rare earth elements and vital minerals.
In March this year, the U.S. and European Union (EU) agreed to immediately begin negotiations on an agreement on critical minerals used in the electric vehicle (EV) battery supply chain. About the proposed critical minerals agreement, the U.S. and EU said such a partnership would further boost mineral production and processing and expand access to sources of critical minerals that are sustainable, trusted, and free of labor abuses.
In August last year, the U.S. government had issued a Request for Information (RFI) on developing and implementing a $675 million critical materials research, development, demonstration, and commercialization program funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
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