US DoE to Fund Studies on Sustainably Extracting Minerals from Coal

August 29, 2023 12:13:52

The Biden administration is set to fund research on environmentally friendly ways of extracting minerals and additional byproducts from coal. A recent press release from the USA Department of Energy (DOE) revealed that the agency has provided $30 million in grants to support efforts to build up local production, reduce costs and reduce America’s reliance on energy imports.

The ongoing energy crisis has underscored just how interconnected the world has become along with the inherent danger of relying on foreign suppliers for critical products.  For instance, the United States is wholly reliant on China for its supply of rare earth metals, which have major applications in technology and national defense. This gives China a great degree of leverage against America as tensions between Beijing and Washington rise.

Investing in sustainable local production will be critical to the ability of the United States to fortify its supply chain and meet its climate-change goals. According to the press release, projects that are currently working on advanced production techniques for rare-earth metals and the “co-production of critical minerals and materials” from coal and coal-based resources may qualify for the grants. Projects focusing on only critical mineral and material production will also be eligible, the agency noted.

The DOE said that rare earth and other important minerals are critical to America’s ability to produce green-energy technologies such as electric cars, hydrogen fuel cells, wind turbines and solar panels.

Coal contains minerals such as clays, carbonates, sulfides, quartz, and feldspars that have applications in industry. Finding sustainable ways of extracting these key minerals could allow the U.S. to expand domestic supply while retaining jobs in the fading coal sector.

Like several other nations, the U.S. has pledged to phase out coal-produced power from its energy grid in favor of cleaner energy such as solar and wind-generated power. While the transition from coal to renewable energy is key to the country achieving its climate-change goals, it will undoubtedly impact the nation’s coal industry, particularly by eliminating jobs.

Investing in technology that extracts minerals from coal could allow the U.S. to protect communities around coal mines from economic ruin while shoring up local mineral supplies. The DOE’s move may also be in line with America’s commitment to phase out coal-generated energy, which stated that the transition to clean energy must go hand-in-hand with support for affected employees to ensure the green-energy transition doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Grant recipients will also have to engage with neighboring communities and address any societal issues that may arise from their proposed projects.

Coal extraction companies such as Arch Resources Inc. (NYSE: ARCH) can gain inspiration from the grants offered by the DOE and think about gradually pivoting so that as coal-energy use dwindles, they have other business verticals to exploit.

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