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What are critical materials?
The U.S. Department of Energy defines critical materials as "any substance used in technology that is subject to supply risks, and for which there are no easy substitutes."
Why is acid mine drainage important to the critical materials division?
Minerals and various other geological materials are extracted from the Earth through mining on a daily basis. West Virginia leads the nation in mining statistics with over 144 million tons of minerals produced in 2009 alone. Based on these statistics, it is no surprise that the West Virginia Water Research Institute is dedicated to the study of minerals as well as rare Earth recovery. Such a high level of success with mining can have negative effects on our environment. In attempts to combat these negative effects, the West Virginia Water Research Institute created an acid mine drainage treatment plant that would assist the Rare Earth Recovery Project.
Photo of acid mine drainage flowing through a stream in Western PA, courtesy of the National Science Foundation.