Guest post by David Middleton
Is coal the new gold? A Pennsylvania senate candidate thinks so
By John Moody | Fox News
“There’s coal in them thar hills.” If that sounds like a confused reference to the 1849 California gold rush, think again. Long-ignored coal deposits in eastern Pennsylvania have become a key part of President Trump’s pledge to revitalize American mining and to once again produce critical materials needed for our national defense.
Trump’s Department of Energy is working with Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican representing the district where coal was once king. Barletta, who’s running for the U.S. Senate this year, is leading a new push to extract and process so-called rare earth elements (REEs), a collection of 17 metals and minerals essential to building jet engines, rocket launchers, GPS systems, high-power magnets, I-phones, and just about any other device that’s smarter than its user.
High concentrations of rare earths have been found in the anthracite coal deposits of Pennsylvania. If those can be extracted, separated – the 17 REEs are often found fused together – and processed, America will be poised to compete with China, while strengthening our own national security.
Barletta, who plans to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, has been criss-crossing the Keystone state with a simple message: yes, we can. “It’s hard to get people to listen,” he concedes. “They roll their eyes and say ‘Ugh, we’re not going back to those days.’ But then I explain that this is a new day for coal, especially anthracite, and how we can use it for manufacturing, and just as important, for our own national defense. And now, people are beginning to want to talk about it.”
The most encouraging development: the Energy Department survey of Barletta’s district found high levels of scandium, a particularly valuable rare earth that sells for more than $2,000 per kilo.
Rare Earth Elements (REE) aren’t actually “rare;” they are actually quite abundant in the Earth’s crust. REE just tend to occur in very low concentration deposits; making mining very labor intensive. However, it appears that many U.S. coal formations have relatively high concentrations of REE…
US DOE finds high concentrations of rare earth elements in American coal basins
EBR Staff Writer
Published 30 November 2017
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has identified high concentrations of rare earth element (REE) in coal samples collected from several American coal basins.
Collected from the Illinois, Northern Appalachian, Central Appalachian, Rocky Mountain Coal Basins, and the Pennsylvania Anthracite regions, the samples were found to have high REE concentrations greater than 300 parts per million (ppm).
NETL said: “Concentrations of rare earths at 300ppm are integral to the commercial viability of extracting REEs from coal and coal by-products, making NETL’s finding particularly significant in the effort to develop economical domestic supplies of these elements.”
NETL has partnered with West Virginia University (WVU), the University of Kentucky (UK), Tetra Tech, and the XLight for the research project.
As part of the project, WVU explored acid mine drainage from bituminous coal mines in the Northern and Central Appalachian Coal Basins, while Tetra Tech assessed bituminous, subbituminous, and anthracite coal from the same basins.
Some coal-related sedimentary rocks have REE concentrations greater than 600 ppm.
Funny thing, the one of the project leaders is Dr. Evan Granite… You literally couldn’t make that up if you tried.
- Geology of Rare Earth Deposits by Tracy Bank, Elliot Roth, Bret Howard, Evan Granite
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is researching the feasibility of extracting our “vast untouched” REE resource in coal and coal byproducts and funding pilot projects.
National Lab Works to Extract Rare Earth Elements From Coal
by Joe Golden, National Energy Technology Laboratory
For more than a century, coal has increased our nation’s prosperity and energy security. Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are investigating whether this abundant domestic resource could yield yet another potentially game-changing benefit—a domestic supply of rare earth elements.
Changing times and changing markets
Today, the United States imports nearly all its rare earth supply from China, but that hasn’t always been the case.
In the 1960s, color televisions became ubiquitous in American homes, and manufacturers required a reliable supply of the rare earth europium to make these new screens. Fortunately, bastnäsite ore, a source of many rare earths, had been discovered in the mountains of California a decade prior. Because of the increased need for rare earths, the small-scale mining operation quickly expanded into a booming industry and launched the United States as the leading global supplier of rare earths.
Near the turn of the 21st century, markets began to shift. Among other factors, competition from overseas rare earth mines eroded U.S. dominance in the rare earths market, and by 2009, China was exporting almost all the world’s supply of rare earths. While initially providing cheaper prices, reliance on a foreign supply of rare earths has made the United States vulnerable to disruptions in overseas markets, underscoring the need for a new domestic source.
A vast untouched resource
Researchers at NETL are moving from the mine to the laboratory and hope to usher in a new era of domestic rare earth supplies through innovation. Their research centers on extracting the valuable elements from coal and coal by-products—a unique solution to an important challenge.
“Coal and coal by-products represents a vast untouched resource,” said NETL Research Engineer Dr. Evan Granite.
Dr. Granite explained that the United States consumes around 16–17 thousand tons of rare earths each year, and this demand could be completely satisfied by extracting rare earths from domestic coal and coal by-products.
“For example, a typical coal contains 62 parts per million (ppm) of total rare earth elements on a whole sample basis.” Dr. Granite said. “With more than 275 billion tons of coal reserves in the United States, approximately 17 million tons of rare earth elements are present within the coal—that’s a 1,000-year supply at the current rate of consumption.”
Coal reserves are not the only potential sources of rare earths. Each year, the United States typically produces around 75-100 million tons of coal fly ash, which contains an even higher concentration of rare earths (more than 400 ppm). Furthermore, clays and shales located above and below coal seams could also serve as possible sources, because they contain approximately 200 ppm of rare earths. DOE-NETL initiated the Rare Earth Elements Program in 2014 to help secure a domestic supply of rare earths by addressing the feasibility of separating and extracting REEs from coal and coal by-products including fly ash, coal refuse, and acid mine drainage.
“For example, a typical coal contains 62 parts per million (ppm) of total rare earth elements on a whole sample basis. With more than 275 billion tons of coal reserves in the United States, approximately 17 million tons of rare earth elements are present within the coal—that’s a 1,000-year supply at the current rate of consumption.”
The resurgence of the American coal industry might return the US to energy and REE production DOMINANCE.
Who would have ever guessed that the Department of Energy was actually capable of doing something useful? MAGA!