US West Virginia Updates Rare Earth Recycling Efforts

To support the supply chain of valuable rare earth elements (REEs) and critical mineral resources nationwide. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the US West Virginia (WV) Water Research Institute, informed the State Joint Economic Development Council at the interim legislative session of an effort led by the Water Research Institute to assess the feasibility of expanding acid mine drainage treatment technology.

WV Water Research Institute Director Paul Ziemkiewicz made that pitch recently to the state Joint Economic Development Commission. The institute is assessing the feasibility of scaling up acid mine drainage treatment technology to support a nationwide supply chain of valuable REEs and critical minerals.

This proposal was recently proposed by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the WV Water Research Institute. The institute is evaluating the feasibility of expanding acid mine drainage treatment technology to support the nation's valuable REEs and key mineral supply chains. He said: "Our goal is not only to be able to treat acid mine drainage and improve the environment, but also to obtain a source of income."

Ziemkiewicz recommended that the committee pass the draft legislation. He said the Water Research Institute is working with the state Department of Environmental Protection to clarify who owns the resources generated by the treated acid mine drainage. When pyrite is exposed, it reacts with water and air to form sulfuric acid and dissolved iron, which can form orange and red sediments at the bottom of the stream, thereby forming acid mine drainage.

WVU awarded 5 million dollars to continue rare earth project image

Ziemkiewicz said: "We are trying to treat acid mine drainage before it enters the river, and better yet, realize some revenue during this period."

The institute received a US$5 million grant from the Federal Department of Energy in 2019 to expand the scale of recovery of REEs from acid mine drainage sludge. The work included the construction of a facility for a new acid mine drainage treatment plant near Mount Storm.

Ziemkiewicz said: "We are studying a process that basically uses a small acid mine drainage treatment system and converts it into a rare earth recovery device." The acid mine drainage treatment plant is under construction and is initially scheduled to start operations in November.

The facility could treat 1,000 gallons of acid mine drainage per day. The priceless solids removed during the elucidation process will be pumped into a storage plant, and valuable REEs will be separated for further processing.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, REEs are relatively abundant in the earth's crust, but compared with most other mineral commodities, the recoverable concentration is not common.

As of January this year, the United States has 1.5 million tons of REE reserves, accounting for 3% of China's total reserves. Ziemkiewicz said that as the United States tries to take the lead in the rare earth market, he has faintly felt the opportunity in West Virginia.

Ziemkiewicz said: "Of course we hope the central concentrate of the entire United States, hope that central Canada can (to West Virginia), and then this will be our main supplier of rare earth elements and key minerals to the United States. This may sound grandiose, but what the heck? Think big, realize big."

Ziemkiewicz suggested that state legislators accept the legislation jointly developed by the Water Institute and DEP stating that anyone dealing with acid mine drainage also has valuable elements from the drainage. What we want to do is to advance this legislation, no matter who handles acid mine drainage, who bears the environmental responsibility of dealing with acid mine drainage, will ultimately benefit from any attractive feedstocks.