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Biden-Harris Administration Invests $17 Million to Strengthen Nation’s Critical Minerals Supply Chain

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced over $17 million for three projects that will support the design and construction of facilities that produce rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials from coal-based resources. The projects, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, may strengthen domestic supply chains, helping to meet the growing demand for critical minerals and materials and reduce reliance on unreliable foreign sources. Rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials are key to manufacturing clean energy technologies here in America—such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells. Coal and coal production waste contain valuable rare earth elements that can be used to manufacture clean energy technology components, creating high-quality jobs in communities that have historically produced fossil fuels and helping to combat climate change. 

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is helping narrow the nation’s dependence on foreign supply chains, by reimagining the use of coal waste and byproducts as a domestic source of the critical minerals needed for clean energy technologies,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The investments announced today will not only increase our national security and ensure a cleaner environment but will also help deliver high-quality jobs in all pockets of the country.” 

The United States currently imports more than 80% of rare earth elements, but rare earth elements naturally occur all around us, including in our domestic coal and coal wastes, which comprise more than 250 billion tons of coal reserves, over 4 billion tons of waste coal, and about 2 billion tons of coal ash. DOE seeks to tap this unconventional resource to help build a domestic supply chain critical to the U.S. economy, clean energy, and national security. 

Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) Studies for Production of Critical Minerals and Materials from Coal-Based Resources Project Selections

Three projects were selected for negotiation to support the development of FEED studies for potential future intermediate- and/or demonstration-scale facilities for the extraction, separation, and production of rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials from unconventional resources. The FEED studies will establish and define technical requirements focused on project scope, schedule, and costs, and reduce risk during the construction and operation of future rare earth element and critical minerals and materials production facilities:

  • The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, Illinois) will perform a FEED study needed to establish a fully integrated, vertical supply chain that would be located entirely within the State of Illinois for production of select critical minerals from coal-based sources.
  • Winner Water Services, Inc. (Sharon, Pennsylvania) will build on prior technology development to complete a FEED study located in Georgia on recovering rare earths from coal ash while preparing the coal ash for the concrete market.
  • Tetra Tech, Inc. (Houston, Texas) will build on prior technology development to complete a FEED study located in Pennsylvania on recovering rare earths and potentially other critical minerals from coal byproducts (underclay) while processing the clays to a salable grade.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), under the purview of DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), will manage the selected projects. Additional details about the selected projects can be found here.

The three selected project teams were required as part of their applications to submit Community Benefits Plans to demonstrate meaningful engagement with and tangible benefits to the communities in which these projects will be located. These plans provide details on their commitments to community and labor engagement, quality job creation, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and benefits to disadvantaged communities as part of the Justice40 Initiative.

DOE’s Advancements in Critical Minerals and Materials 

Since January 2021, DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management has announced an estimated $58 million in projects that support critical minerals and materials exploration, resource identification, production, and processing in traditional mining and fossil fuel-producing communities across the country. This total includes $16 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for detailed engineering and cost FEED studies that are focused on design, construction, and operation of a first-of-a-kind domestic, demonstration-scale rare earth production facility that will extract, separate, and refine rare earth elements from unconventional sources like acid mine drainage and mining waste. This funding will create new opportunities to remediate land and water while generating rare earth elements necessary for a clean energy economy. 

FECM minimizes environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuels and industrial processes while working to achieve net-zero emissions across the U.S. economy. Priority areas of technology work include carbon capture, carbon conversion, carbon dioxide removal, carbon dioxide transport and storage, hydrogen production with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical minerals production. To learn more, visit the FECM websitesign up for FECM news announcements, and visit the NETL website.

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