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WVU scientists can discuss rare earth extraction, a potential gamechanger for the U.S. environment and economy

stream with appearance of orang substance on banks

Acid mine drainage is a major pollutant, but West Virginia University is ahead-of-the-curve in researching ways to extract rare earth elements from the sludge with the added benefit of returning clean water to rivers and streams. (WVU Photo)

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Ahead of a West Virginia University scientist’s testimony to a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday (March 31), researchers can discuss the University’s advancements in developing a process to extract rare earths and critical materials from acid mine drainage and coal waste.

Rare earth element technologies, which power everything from smartphones to the nation’s missile guidance system, could serve as a gamechanger for the environment and the domestic economy, according to WVU scientists.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, a program at the WVU Energy Institute, has been invited to speak before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Ziemkiewicz and other experts studying rare earths are available to explain how WVU is ahead-of-the-curve in this field of research.


“WVU research teams have developed advanced separation approaches to recover rare earth elements and other critical minerals from one of the most economically viable coal-related sources, acid mine drainage, demonstrating its potential in future process commercialization."

“Rare earth element technologies are important now more than ever because of the vital role they can play in the U.S. on clean energy, electric vehicles, consumer electronics, national defense and many other applications. On the other hand, China’s dominance in REE production and supply can put supply chains and national security at risk.” Qingqing Huang, Assistant Professor, Department of Mining Engineering


“WVU has one of very few mineral processing groups in the U.S. and we are working closely with the coal industry in the state. Recent incidents such as the war in Ukraine and U.S.-China trade highlight the importance of the U.S. gaining control of the critical materials supply chain and to not to depend on foreign countries.” Xingbo Liu, Associate Dean for Research, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


“We (West Virginia University) pioneered the idea of using acid mine drainage as feedstock and we’ve developed a process for economically recovering the mixed rare earths and critical materials in an environmentally-benign way. We don’t need to mine anything or disturb a lot of ground and we don’t produce radioactive byproducts like most conventional rare earth mines. Also, acid mine drainage provides the rare earths in a form that is easily recovered so, no new mining is required, no rock grinding nor intensive processing. As a result, our carbon footprint is much less than a conventional mining and milling operation.” Paul Ziemkiewicz, Director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute 


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WVU opens new research facility to extract valuable rare earths from acid mine drainage

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



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