The Water Research Institute (WRI) recently initiated two new projects that will advance the production and processing of Rare Earth Element/Critical Material (REE/CM) concentrates from acid mine drainage (AMD). The new awards were made by the U.S. Departments of Energy ($8MM) and Defense ($3MM) through funding supported by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Capito to advance work on increasing the domestic supply of REE/CMs
In late 2015, a team of researchers at WVU led by WRI director Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz conceived the idea of recovering REE/CM from AMD – a legacy environmental issue and the single largest source of water pollution in Appalachia. As envisioned, the process would simultaneously treat the wastewater to discharge standards while producing critical raw materials for technology and defense. Because REE/CM are soluble in acid, AMD naturally leaches them out of the surrounding rock. Consequently, this process yields a high-grade feedstock without the usual expenses and delays associated with traditional mining, exploration, permitting and infrastructure. Also, AMD based feedstocks are exceptionally valuable, typically containing over 50% magnet and heavy REEs.