• Biden-Harris Administration allocates $17M for converting coal waste into critical minerals, enhancing clean energy technology and job creation.
  • Projects aim to secure domestic supply chains, reducing reliance on foreign sources and supporting energy communities.
  • Emphasis on sustainability and community benefits, aligning with the Justice40 Initiative for disadvantaged communities.

The Biden-Harris Administration, as part of its Investing in America agenda, has committed over $17 million to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for projects focusing on the extraction and processing of rare earth elements (REEs) and other critical minerals from coal and its byproducts. This initiative aims to strengthen national security, support clean energy technologies, and generate quality jobs, particularly in areas historically dependent on fossil fuel production.

Rare earth elements are essential for the manufacturing of advanced clean energy technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells. Despite their name, REEs are relatively abundant but are challenging to mine sustainably and economically. The United States currently imports over 80% of its rare earth supplies, primarily from China, highlighting a significant vulnerability in its supply chain and a pressing need for domestic sources.

The recent funding is directed towards the design and construction of facilities capable of producing REEs from coal-based resources. These resources include over 250 billion tons of coal reserves, as well as substantial amounts of waste coal and coal ash. Studies have indicated that lignite and bituminous coals, along with their ashes, contain significant amounts of REEs, with average contents estimated around 69-469 parts per million (ppm) depending on the coal type and its byproducts, thus presenting a valuable alternative source for these critical materials​​​​.

The projects selected for this funding will conduct Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) studies to develop integrated supply chains for the production of critical minerals entirely within the United States, focusing on coal-based sources. These studies will help reduce risks associated with construction and operation by establishing clear technical requirements and project scopes.

Furthermore, these initiatives are mandated to create Community Benefits Plans, ensuring meaningful engagement with and tangible benefits to the local communities. These plans are part of the broader Justice40 Initiative, aiming to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of federal investments to disadvantaged communities.

In summary, this investment not only aims to bolster the domestic supply chain for critical minerals but also seeks to repurpose coal waste, aligning with sustainability goals. By leveraging existing coal and coal byproduct reserves for the extraction of rare earth elements, the administration is taking significant steps toward reducing environmental impacts, fostering job creation in traditional energy sectors, and ensuring a more secure and sustainable future for the manufacturing industry in both Europe and North America.

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