Energy Department awards $5M for rare earth element project

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $5 million to the Water Research Institute at West Virginia University for its rare earth recovery project.

The project includes building a facility at a new acid mine drainage treatment plant near Mount Storm. Rare earth elements come from acid mine drainage sludge and are used to power things such as smart phones and the U.S. missile guidance system.

The institute will partner with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Special Reclamation, Rockwell Automation and TenCate Corp. in the project.

About 15,000 tons of rare earth elements are used annually in the U.S., which imports nearly all of them. A bench scale pilot plant was opened in 2018 on WVU’s campus to test the feasibility of extraction and refining technology.

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