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September 20, 2022

US assigns $156m for critical minerals refinery

The new facility will be equipped to extract and separate rare earth elements and critical minerals from mining waste streams.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated up to $156m to fund the development of a proposed critical minerals refinery.

This refinery, which will receive DOE funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is expected to demonstrate the commercial viability of turning mine waste into clean energy technology.

As a result, the facility would help secure a domestic supply chain for rare earth elements and critical minerals.

Said to be the first of its kind in America, the new facility will be equipped to extract, separate, produce, and refine rare earth elements (REE) and critical minerals (CM) from the large quantities of waste streams from mining and energy production in the country.

REE and other critical minerals are used to manufacture clean energy technologies such as solar panels.

The facility is expected to contribute to the country’s 2050 target for net-zero emissions.

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said: “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides America with a historic opportunity to turn legacy waste into the components of clean energy technology in a way that bolsters domestic supply chains and enhances our national security.

“The demand for clean energy technology continues to grow at a rapid pace, and an American-made critical minerals refinery will help generate jobs and increase our competitiveness on the global stage.”

The DOE said that the latest Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) seeks applications for a front-end engineering design study followed by the design, construction, and operation of a domestic demonstration facility from US academic institutions.

The US currently imports more than 80% of its rare earth elements from foreign suppliers to develop clean energy technologies and other indispensable products.

In a press statement, the DOE said: “Across the country, there are billions of tonnes of coal waste and ash, acid mine drainage, and discharged water.

“However, these waste streams from mining, energy production, and related activities, contain a wide variety of valuable rare earth elements and other critical minerals that can be repurposed into clean energy technologies, while helping to create healthier environments for communities across the country.”

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