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Department of Energy to fund $122 million for rare earth elements from coal

The date of: 2020-09-24
viewed: 14


WASHINGTON, D.C. (WOWK) – The Energy and Natural Resources Committee received a $122 million Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) by the Department of Energy.

Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senator Joe Manchin says the funding is part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy Carbon Ore, Rare Earth and Critical Minerals (CORE-CM) Initiative. The initiative’s goal is to develop technologies to utilize coal and coal by-products as a feedstock for rare earth elements and other high-value materials.

Rare Earth Elements from coal mining could boost Appalachian region 

Rare earth elements are a by-product used in many products such as cell phones, computers, magnets, and especially in national defense hardware.

In July 2019, WOWK Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis spoke with state officials on how a closed coal mine south of Morgantown could possibly signal the future of the coal industry through mining rare earth elements.

“We should not be relying on China as the sole source of rare earth elements and other critical minerals that are crucial inputs in countless devices Americans use every day. This program will build off the great work already being done in West Virginia to develop technology capable of extracting rare earth elements (REEs) from coal and coal byproducts to help establish a U.S. based supply chain,” Manchin said.

The bipartisan Rare Earth Element Advanced Coal Technologies Act (REEACT) codifies the DOE program and authorizes an annual appropriation of $23,000,000 per year to the Department of Energy through 2027, according to Senator Manchin.

The senator says the bill also requires the Secretary of Energy to provide a report that will evaluate the research, development and demonstration of rare earth element production technologies and evaluate the market impact of commercializing the coal-based technologies to Congress in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Interior. REEACT has been incorporated into the Manchin-Murkowski American Energy Innovation Act, according to Manchin.

The senator says he’s encouraging all potential applicants in West Virginia who are interested to apply for a portion of the funding. The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will provide additional information to potential applicants in a pre-application webinar at 1 p.m. Oct. 1.

“West Virginia coal has been the backbone of the American economy for decades, and with yesterday’s funding announcement we can continue to utilize the full potential value of our state’s vast natural resources. This funding gets us closer to our goal of creating a reliable supply chain and is a huge win for U.S. national security and domestic manufacturing. I encourage all interested applicants to apply,” Manchin said.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) began studying the potential of extracting rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts in 2010 and expanded its research efforts in 2014, Manchin said. The company’s Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts RD&D Program awarded West Virginia University two grants in 2016 for researchers to evaluate potentially using rare earth elements from coal by-products in the region.

In July 2018, WVU and NETL, collaborated to open a pilot-scale rare earth extraction facility to continue research towards commercialization. The company says it has shown the technical feasibility of recovering rare earth elements from coal-based resources.

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