In order to comply with Executive Order 13817, DOE’s Feasibility of Recovering Rare Earth Elements program expanded its technology development effort in 2019 to include the recovery of critical minerals (CM) from coal-based resources.

As a result, DOE’s program in 2020, renamed as the Critical Minerals Sustainability program, required existing domestic small pilot-scale facilities to co-produce CM in addition to producing rare earth elements (REE).

In 2021, DOE Fossil Energy Carbon Management’s (FECM) program initiated basinal coalition efforts to address the full economic potential value of U.S. natural resources for producing REE, CM, and high-value, nonfuel, carbon-based products, and to holistically assess not only upstream mining of resources and physical separation (e.g., beneficiation), but also midstream processing, separation, recovery and purification of critical and high-value materials, and ultimately onshore downstream manufacturing that incorporates these materials into consumer or national defense products.

Additionally, in 2021, efforts were initiated that addressed the development of innovative, cost-reduced processing for the separation of mixed critical minerals into individual or binary, high purity rare earth oxides (REO) and CM, and reduction of these materials to metals for use in alloy production, advanced technology development, and component manufacturing.

Program Mission

The over-arching mission of DOE-NETL’s Critical Minerals Sustainability program is to rebuild U.S. leadership role in extraction and processing technologies to support an economically, environmentally benign, and geopolitically sustainable U.S. domestic supply chain for production of rare earths and critical minerals for clean energy and national defense.

Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential dual use materials that are incorporated into many of today’s components…

…and are paving the way for future technology innovation and integration.

Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals
(click image to enlarge)

Program Goals

  • Validate the technical and economic feasibility of domestic small pilot-scale facilities to produce high purity mixed rare earth oxides and critical materials from coal and coal-based resources
  • Produce 1-3 tonnes/day of high purity mixed rare earth oxides/salts in domestic engineering prototype facilities using coal-based and alternate resources as feedstock materials
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Prospecting

The Program portfolio consists of a diverse set of domestic feedstock materials that include coal, coal refuse, clay/shale over/under-burden, aqueous effluents as acid mine drainage (AMD), associated solids and precipitates resulting from AMD treatment, and power generation ash. Chemical analyses of these materials are publicly accessible in NETL’s REE-CM EDX database.

Processing

Conventional and advanced extraction, separation, recovery and purification process RD&D development is the underlying basis of NETL’s Program.

Production

Achievements to date have resulted in the design, construction and operation of three first-of-a-kind, small pilot-scale facilities producing small quantities (e.g., ~100 gm/day) of >90% (>900,000 ppm) high purity mixed rare earth oxides/salts from coal-based resources using conventional physical beneficiation and hydrometallurgical (chemical separation) processes.

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