ARPA-E awards $175M to 68 novel clean energy OPEN 2021 projects
Wallbox’s Pulsar Plus home EV chargers now available for purchase at NAPA Auto Parts

DOE issues RFI to develop US critical minerals refinery; supported by $145M from IIJA

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0002686) on the design, construction and operation of a new facility to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of a full-scale rare earth element (REE) and critical minerals (CM) extraction and separation refinery using unconventional resources. This first-of-a-kind facility will be supported by a $140-0million investment from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

The United States imports more than than 80% of its REE demand from offshore suppliers. Similarly, for at least 30 of the 35 CMs, the United States imports more than half its consumption, with no domestic onshore production of 14 CMs.

DOE’s vision is to catalyze development of an economic, competitive, sustainable domestic REE supply from unconventional and secondary sources capable of supporting:

  1. ~10% of current US demand (1,000 tonnes Mixed Rare Earth Oxides/yr) by 2025-6 (initiate construction) with operation by 2027-8

  2. 10% of projected future US demand (10,000 t/yr) by 2035

  3. 20% of projected future US demand (20,000 t/yr) by 2040

DOE intends that this first-generation REE demonstration facility will utilize:

  • Conventional separations technologies including physical beneficiation, chemical separation including, but not limited to, hydrometallurgy, solvent extraction for the separation of individual REE-CM oxides, and reduction to metals, with subsequent alloying of metals. Further advanced technologies will be encouraged, but only if tested and ready to be applied at demonstration scale.

  • Unconventional feedstock resources including raw acid mine drainage (AMD) fluids and precipitates, mine wastes (refuse tailings), and/or other deleterious materials. Recycled materials as electronic wastes will not be included.

Across the United States, there are billions of tons of coal waste and ash, acid mine drainage, and produced water. The legacy wastes left behind by coal mining and related activities all contain a wide variety of valuable minerals and materials. Each of them offers an untapped resource for producing a wealth of critical minerals.

REEs and CMs are essential materials that are used in a broad range of technologies that are significant to national security and energy, such as advanced aircraft, wind turbines, electric vehicles, semiconductors, and hydrogen fuel cells.

Currently, even when REEs are being mined within the US, they are shipped overseas for processing, before being sold back to the US in more expensive products.

The RFI seeks information from industry, investors, developers, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and potentially affected communities including environmental justice, tribal, energy transition, and other communities. The RFI solicits feedback on demonstration facility features, supply chain considerations, research and development needs, business models, and potential societal impacts and benefits.

The information requested will also help inform a site-selection process that emphasizes active community outreach and consultations with historically underrepresented communities and prioritizes environmental justice.


The comments to this entry are closed.