An Overview of the Critical Minerals Sustainability Program at the National Energy Technology Laboratory

J. Mullen
U. S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory,
United States

Keywords: rare earth elements, critical minerals, critical materials


The over-arching mission of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE-NETL) program for Critical Minerals Sustainability (CMS) is to rebuild the U.S. leadership role in extraction and processing technologies to support an economically and environmentally benign, geopolitically sustainable U.S. domestic supply chain for production of rare earths and critical minerals for clean energy and national defense. The original program focus was to assess the potential recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from coal, coal by-products, and waste materials including run-of-mine coal, coal refuse (mineral matter that is removed from coal), clay/sandstone over/under-burden materials, ash (coal combustion residuals), aqueous effluents such as acid mine drainage (AMD), and associated solids and precipitates resulting from AMD treatment. In recent years, the program has been expanded to include recovery of critical minerals and feedstock resources now also include other unconventional resources such as produced waters (carbon capture and storage, as well as oil and natural gas produced brines), mine wastes, and other deleterious materials. Another CMS program objective is to advance existing conventional processes and develop innovative transformational REE and CM extraction, separation, recovery, and purification processes, as well as processes for reduction to metals and to accelerate design, construction, operation and production of REE and CM in domestic engineering-scale prototype separation facilities. Presently, the overall goal is to produce 1-3 tonnes/day of high-purity mixed rare earth oxides/salts (MREO/MRES) and CM with further refining to high purity (>99.0wt%) individual or binary rare earth metals (REMs) for downstream supply chains via a domestic demonstration-scale separation facility by 2026. As the CMS program works toward this goal, we also aim to engage domestic stakeholders and encourage the development of domestic value chains. All the while pursuing environmental and economic justice by remediating land and water, while emphasizing equitable, high quality job creation that is family sustaining in highly-impacted communities.