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Michigan Tech receives $2.5M ARPA-E MINER award for carbon storage and extraction of critical minerals from mine tailings

A Michigan Tech project to help mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Minnesota achieve net-zero emissions while extracting critical minerals from mine tailings has received $2.5 million from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) MINER program. (Earlier post.)

In addition to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Michigan Tech project aims to extract energy-relevant metals from silicate minerals for battery manufacturing.

The DOE awarded grants to develop rapid carbon mineralization and critical mineral extraction technology to 16 projects nationwide, totaling $39 million. Michigan Tech’s project is the only one in the state to receive funding from Mining Innovations for Negative Emissions Resource Recovery (MINER). The MINER initiative funds technology research that increases mineral yield, while decreasing required energy and subsequent emissions, in order to mine and extract energy-relevant minerals.

Principal project investigator (PI) is Lei Pan, an associate professor in Michigan Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering. Chemical engineering professors Tim Eisele and David Shonnard are co-PIs on the three-year project, along with researchers from University of Utah and University of Nevada, Reno.


Current methods used to sequester carbon dioxide through mineralization take several years. The Michigan Tech process will achieve a carbonization reaction in four hours. Mine tailings from mining operations plus carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere combine in an accelerated carbonation reactor. The resulting carbonated products—minerals Magnesite and Siderite—can be permanently and safely stored in a subaqueous tailing pond. (Kobina Akyea Ofori graphic)

In this project, we target kinetics. Mine tailings contain a substantial amount of carbon-dioxide-reactive minerals such as olivine, which can be used as a carbon sink. It’s been done before, but at a much slower pace. Our method greatly accelerates the kinetics of carbon dioxide sequestration to achieve the result on an industrial scale in just four hours, rather than several years.

—Lei Pan

The Michigan Tech team will work in partnership with Eagle Mine in upper Michigan, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Lundin Mining, and Polymet Mining in Minnesota.


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