New $140m US programme for first-of-a-kind critical minerals refinery

Rare earth element and critical minerals are essential materials used in a broad range of technologies such as advanced aircraft, wind turbines, EVs, semiconductors and hydrogen fuel cells

Big Zero Report 2022

The US Government has launched a new $140 million (£103m) programme to develop the country’s first-of-a-kind critical minerals refinery.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has released a Request for Information (RFI) on the design, construction and operation of a new facility to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of a full-scale rare earth element (REE) and critical minerals (CM) extraction and separation refinery using unconventional resources.

REEs and CMs are essential materials used in a broad range of technologies such as advanced aircraft, wind turbines, electric vehicles (EVs), semiconductors and hydrogen fuel cells.

Currently, even when REEs are being mined in the US, they are shipped overseas for processing before being sold back to the US in more expensive products.

According to the DOE, the information requested will help inform a site selection process that emphasises active community outreach and consultations with historically under-represented communities and prioritises environmental justice.

Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said: “Applying next-generation technology to convert legacy fossil fuel waste into a domestic source of critical minerals needed to strengthen our supply chains is a win-win — delivering a healthier environment and driving us forward to our clean energy goals.

“With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s investment in the build out of this first-of-its kind critical minerals refinery, we are moving ideas from the lab to the commercial stage and demonstrating how America can compete for the global supply chain to meet the growing demand for clean energy technology.”

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