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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • “Materials Science Profiles of Progress” – REE Extraction From Coal

    In the fairy tale realm, Rumpelstilskin was able to turn straw into gold.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, as part of our feature series “Materials Science Profiles of Progress,” we’re taking a closer look at a recently-announced research partnership that may not be able to turn straw into gold, but promises to extract precious Rare Earth Elements from coal.

    A new Department of Energy grant-funded program bringing together a consortium of research entities and private companies including Penn State University, Texas Minerals Resources Corp., Inventure Renewables, and K Technologies seeks to evaluate ways to extract Rare Earth Elements from coal overburden, the material that sits atop a coal seam, provided by Pennsylvania-based Jeddo Coal Co.

    According to the Republican Herald, “[t]he processing method is being developed in conjunction with Penn State and relies on continuous ion exchange and ion chromatography — which is believed to be cleaner and more efficient than the solvent exchange method that is presently used for processing rare earth elements.”

    While touring Jeddo Coal Co.’s mining facilities near Stockton Mountain in Pennsylvania, which are currently idling but are set to become the site of operation for the consortium, Energy Secretary Rick Perry touted the program which he considered “staggeringly important” and the role it could play in reducing our nation’s over-reliance on foreign imports of REE materials used in high-tech 21st Century applications:

    “I don’t think we can overstate how important the development of rare earth minerals out of our anthracite coal is, and the potential that it’s going to have. (…) I think it’s a really important message coming from this administration that whether it’s rare minerals, whether it’s that load of coal that’s headed to Ukraine, the future is bright. (…) We’re going to find the ways to use this natural resource that we have to the betterment not just to America, but to our allies as well.”

    Perry was joined by Rep. Lou Barletta (R, PA-11), who was one of the earliest congressional backers of the program. Barletta argued at the time of the grant announcement:

    “The Department of Energy’s studies have shown that the Appalachian coal fields throughout northeastern Pennsylvania contain some of the highest concentrations of Rare Earth Elements. (…) These elements are critical components of everyday electronics and equipment used in the health care, transportation, and defense industries.  With our abundance of anthracite, we have the potential to create and support good-paying jobs, not just in the coal industry, but in manufacturing and related industries that rely on these elements.

    It is critical for our national security that we turn to a domestic source of these minerals. Our military should not have to rely on China or any other country for the resources necessary to keep us safe, especially when those resources are readily available right here in Pennsylvania.” 

    Similar projects are in the works around the country, with a West Virginia University’s Energy Institute project having moved into phase two of its efforts to recover REEs from coal mine drainage.  The Department of Energy is looking to award a substantially bigger grant of $20 million to the project that shows the greatest potential for extracting Rare Earths from coal in an economically viable fashion.

    None of these projects may be able to compete with Rumpelstiltskin, but we also don’t live in a fairy tale world.  Considering that – after a brief dip thanks to a now-bankrupt domestic REE mining operation – our import dependency for REEs is back at 100%, it is quite an encouraging real-world development to see that policy makers, private sector executives and public university scientists are realizing the importance of this issue, and we’ll keep monitoring the progress of these projects.

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  • Critical Materials Institute Meets “Stretch Goal” to Produce REE Magnet Domestically

    Meeting one of its “stretch goal[s] to demonstrate that rare-earth magnets could be produced from mine to manufacturer, here in the United States,” the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub, has announced that the has fabricated magnets made entirely of domestically sourced and refined REEs. 

    This success was achieved in the context of public private partnerships CMI has engaged in to further its mission. According to CMI’s press release, the Idaho National Laboratory, a CMI member institution, sourced the raw materials and refined the oxides, while a CMI Industry member, Infinium, produced metal ingot from those oxides. Further processing work was completed at Ames Laboratory, CMI’s home research institution.  

    Says CMI Director Alex King: 

    “We were asked if it was still possible to make these magnets entirely within the U.S., now that magnet manufacturing has very largely moved overseas. This proves that we can apply advanced tools and technologies developed in the U.S. to get the job done – do it quickly, and do it rather more efficiently than it is being done elsewhere.”

    As ARPN followers will know, REEs have not only become indispensable components of our hi-tech items ranging from smart phones over computers to televisions, they are also of critical importance for the proper function of many clean energy and defense technology components. Meanwhile, China has long held a near-total REE supply monopoly. While for a few short years, a now-bankrupt North American mining company sourced REEs domestically, thereby reducing our import reliance for REEs (with the lowest degree of net import reliance pegged at 63% in 2013), we are now once more 100% reliant on foreign imports to meet domestic REE needs.  

    As such, CMI’s current REE work and other public-private partnerships the institute has entered into are highly relevant, and tie into the overall context of process improvements allowing for the extraction of minerals from unconventional sources. As Dan McGroarty explained in his most recent Congressional testimony before a U.S. Senate committee:

    “Without in any way diminishing the dangers of our resource dependency (…) These are advances arising out of necessity – the need to efficiently extract minerals from low-grade deposits. In some cases, this effort is driving process improvements that point to the ability to extract minerals from unconventional sources, feedstocks if you will. I’m talking about historic mine waste piles, eWaste, and potentially and perhaps most interesting, extracting rare metals from coal deposits.”

    While these are steps in the right direction, more needs to be done. “[A]t a time when state-backed enterprises from China and Russia are focused on locking up metals and mineral deposits worldwide,” we need a comprehensive and strategic approach to mineral resource security.

    The bottom line according to McGroarty is this:

     ”If we are serious about ensuring U.S. military power and reviving American manufacturing, we must reverse the deep dependency on foreign metals and minerals, and treat American resource security with the same seriousness – and one would hope, the same success – as our approach to American energy security.”

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  • Japan Pursuing Long-Term Critical Mineral Strategy in Kazakhstan

    In an effort to secure ongoing access to Rare Earths (REEs) for its domestic industries, Japan, which in geological terms does not have much of a resource profile, has entered into a series of cooperative agreements with Kazakhstan, a nation quickly ascending into the league of top REE suppliers in the world. The latest one [...]
  • American Resources Policy Network announces new Advisor on Advanced Materials

    Investment Intelligence Site Head Assumes Expanded Role Within ARPN WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Resources Policy Network has
 announced that Tracy Weslosky, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for InvestorIntel, a global investment source for the resource, energy and technology sectors, and a member of the American Resources Policy Network panel of experts, will expand her role at [...]
  • The OPEC of Rare Earths – China’s Resource Stranglehold and its National Security Implications

    In his latest column for Real Clear World, American Resources Principal Daniel McGroarty zeros in on China’s dominance of the Rare Earths market. Invoking lopsided production numbers – in spite of international efforts to develop Rare Earths outside of China, China’s supply monopoly still hovers at 95 percent – McGroarty likens China’s REE control to [...]
  • Terminology matters – Clearing up the REE confusion

    As they are a hot commodity right now, talking about Rare Earths Elements is en vogue these days. As fascinating as they are, the terminology associated with this group of minerals composed of the fifteen lanthanoid elements plus Scandium and Yttrium remains confusing to many. To clarify things, American Resources expert and Technology Metals Research [...]
  • Indian-Japanese Rare Earths cooperation underscores geopolitical dimension of resource policy

    Dwarfed by Chinese production today, it may be hard to imagine that India was once the world’s leading Rare Earths producer. The country is now trying to gain foot hold in a market it dominated in the 1950s, and is hoping to benefit from a territorial dispute in the East China Sea. In the wake [...]
  • American Resources expert Jeffery Green: “Washington needs to realize that all roads lead to China”

    This week’s Critical Metals Report on the Gold Report’s website features an exclusive detailed interview with the latest expert to join the American Resources panel of experts: Jeffery Green, President and Founder of J.A. Green & Company, and Founder of the Strategic Materials Advisory Council. Discussing the U.S. policy landscape against the backdrop of the [...]
  • FY 2013 budget doubles down on “green” energy fueled by critical minerals

    In his much-anticipated proposed FY 2013 Federal budget blueprint released last week, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to “renewable” energy. An attractive proposition, but it raises the question of whether we are simply trading one set of foreign dependencies for another. Technologies such as electric cars and wind and solar energy generators are heavily [...]
  • Germany jumps into the race for rare earths

    In line with the country’s recent policy shift towards a more active role in the global race for critical mineral resources, a German mining and commodity group has announced its plans to develop a 38,000 tonnes deposit of REEs in the East German state of Saxony.  A newly formed company called Seltenerden Storkwitz AG, which [...]

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