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Could coal mining waste provide crucial elements for green tech?

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on New Scientist or enjoy below:

🗞️ Driving the news: In Appalachia's coal country, researchers are exploring the potential of extracting rare earth elements from coal mine waste
• This initiative could turn a source of environmental pollution into a valuable resource for various technologies

🔭 The context: Rare earth elements are crucial for a wide range of products, including smartphones and electric vehicles making the current global demand very high, and China almost monopolizes rare earth production
• This research offers an alternative source that also addresses environmental cleanup

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: Extracting rare earths from coal waste could offer a dual benefit: obtaining essential materials for green technology and addressing the toxic legacy of abandoned mines
• This approach also avoids the radioactive waste typically produced in traditional rare earth mining

⏭️ What's next: A pilot project in West Virginia is focusing on material recovery from acid mine drainage treatment sites and it aims to demonstrate the feasibility of extracting and concentrating rare earth elements
• If successful, this approach could be replicated, turning environmental cleanup operations into sources of valuable materials

💬 One quote: "Theoretically, you could start producing tomorrow" (Paul Ziemkiewicz, Director, West Virginia Water Research Institute)

📈 One stat: Rare earths, comprising 17 valuable elements, are essential for manufacturing a broad range of high-tech products and the U.S. currently has only one active mine for these elements, underscoring the importance of finding alternative sources

Click for more news covering the latest on Green Tech

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