The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) has announced the selection of six projects to receive a total of nearly US$1 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D) under funding opportunity announcement (FOA) 2404, Advanced Processing of Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals for Industrial and Manufacturing Applications.
Critical minerals (CM) are necessary to manufacture high-tech devices, especially technologies for national defence applications and green growth-related industries. However, the United States does not domestically produce fourteen of these CMs and imports more than 50% of many others. This dearth of domestic production leaves the nation dependent on imports to meet its demand.
CMs include rare earth elements (REE), which are used to manufacture cell phones, LED screens, solar panels, energy infrastructure, defence technologies and other essential high-tech applications. The US imports 80% of its REEs from China, with portions of the remainder indirectly sourced from China through other countries.
The current US$5 billion global REE market is projected to grow 40% over the next five years, with similar growth anticipated for the remainder of the CM market. The US has the opportunity to produce its own domestic supply of REEs and CMs and thereby reduce its risk of supply disruption in essential domestic and military industries, while producing needed materials for the emerging clean energy technology market.
The selected projects will focus on developing innovative midstream processing technologies that will be environmentally benign and potentially lower capital costs and operating expenses. This work may also contribute to the further development of a domestic CM industry – creating new jobs for communities that have disproportionately suffered adverse economic, health and environmental impacts by emphasising CM production from waste streams.