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From pollutant to resource: WVU scientists push rare earth element technologies closer to production


Water researchers at West Virginia University hope to turn a pollutant - acid mine drainage - into a technological resource through the continuation of a $2.1 million contract from the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The West Virginia Water Research Institute, a program of the Energy Institute at WVU, earned the funding to explore a nationwide supply chain, based on acid mine drainage treatment, that would produce at least 400 tons of rare earth elements and critical materials each year.

The project inches WVU closer to producing rare earth element technologies, which power everything from smartphones to the nation's missile guidance system.

"We're partnered with the WV Department of Environmental Protection to build a pilot plant that will treat acid mine drainage while producing about one ton per year of rare earth and critical mineral concentrate," said Paul Ziemkiewicz, WVWRI director and principal investigator. "NETL wants us to take it to the next step and assess the feasibility of a national supply chain based on our technology. Mine drainage treatment plants like this would be part of that supply chain."

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