Quest for rare earth elements and critical minerals in Central Appalachia gets new boost – by Matt Busse (Cardinal News – August 7, 2023)

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A project that aims to identify Central Appalachian sources of rare earth elements and critical minerals has received $500,000 in federal funding to continue for another six months.

The 17 rare earth elements — so called not because they’re uncommon, per se, but because they typically occur in such low concentrations that easily extracted deposits are rare — include scandium, yttrium and a group of 15 elements collectively called the lanthanides. The 50 critical minerals identified as such by the U.S. Geological Survey are considered essential to the economy and have no viable substitutes; they include aluminum, cobalt, graphite, lithium, nickel and nearly all of the rare earth elements.

These elements and minerals are necessary for a variety of technological applications from batteries and magnets to electric cars and smartphones. The team behind Evolve Central Appalachia — or Evolve CAPP — hopes sources such as waste coal from mining operations, fly ash from coal-fired power plants or underground water brought to the surface by oil and gas wells could yield such valuable materials.

“We know we have them in certain concentrations in our backyard,” Richard Bishop, a professor of practice in Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering and the principal investigator of the Evolve CAPP project, said during a project update meeting Friday in Julian, West Virginia.

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