US invests $32m to strengthen critical mineral supply chains

By Lanre-Peter Elufisan
In line with Biden's Investing in America agenda, the funding will advance domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies from coal

A recent announcement by the US Department of Energy (DoE) has outlined its plans to invest US$32m in developing facilities that will be able to manufacture rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials from coal-based resources that are available in the country.

To advance domestic manufacturing and support the creation of clean energy technologies from coal and coal by-products. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide funding to strengthen domestic supply chains, helping meet the growing demand for critical minerals and reducing reliance on foreign sources. 

The United States imports over 80% of its rare earth elements from foreign suppliers. Yet, these minerals are crucial to manufacturing clean energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells.

Although the US is on track to close half of the nation's coal capacity by 2026, coal still accounts for more than 15% of America's power generation. With plans for another 80GW to close by 2030, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that there is a strong possibility that coal's power-market share will fall to 10% or lower.

However, knowing that coal and coal production waste contains a wide variety of valuable rare earth elements that can be converted into clean energy technology components, President Biden's administration has committed to creating high-quality jobs in energy communities through its climate and Investing in America agenda.

Biden's Investing in America Agenda

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M Granholm said: "President Biden's 'Investing in America' agenda is providing a historic opportunity to convert coal products into the critical materials needed to build an array of clean energy products.”

She added, "The president's transformative investments will strengthen our national security by lessening our dependence on international supply chains while delivering high-quality jobs and healthier communities for all Americans."

Additionally, the DOE announced funding opportunities for Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) studies on coal-based minerals and materials. The funding seeks to tap unconventional resources to help build a domestic supply chain critical to the US economy, clean energy, and national security. The program funds research, development, and demonstration projects supporting the development of intermediate or demonstration-scale facilities for domestic production and refining rare earth elements and other critical minerals across the country.

The DOE's efforts to develop Critical Rare Earth Minerals

DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management has invested more than US$41m in projects since January 2021 to identify and produce rare earth elements and other critical minerals and materials in traditional fossil fuel-producing communities. 

According to the statement, this total includes US$16m in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for research and development, creating opportunities to remediate land and water while generating rare earth elements essential to a clean energy economy. 

With over 250 billion tons of coal reserves, over 4 billion tons of waste coal, and about 2 billion tons of coal ash at various sites across the country, this shows Washington's commitment to building a resilient supply chain and low-carbon future.


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