The U.S. Department of Energy has decided to continue to fund research that investigates recovery of rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts.
Rare earth elements have numerous economic and defense applications. They’re used in devices like cell phones, and in medical equipment. Conventional recovery methods are difficult, expensive and generate a lot of contaminated waste.
The majority of these elements are currently mined in China.
The Department of Energy is putting almost 17 and a half million dollars into rare earths research projects.
A lot of that money is going into Appalachia. $2.7 million will go to West Virginia University, which is exploring acid mine drainage solids as a possible source for rare earth solids. $6 million will go the University of Kentucky. Researchers there are exploring coal washing byproducts for rare earth elements.
A Massachusetts-based company called Physical Sciences Inc., is also getting $6 million to process fly ash for rare earths. Fly ash is what’s left after you burn coal.