CHARLESTON, W.Va. (October 7, 2019) – The West
Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) Office of Special
Reclamation (OSR) is partnering with the West Virginia Water Research Institute
(WVWRI) at West Virginia University (WVU) to build a new acid mine drainage
(AMD) treatment plant near Mount Storm.
The treatment plant is part of WVWRI’s effort
to expand its successful Rare Earth Element Oxide Recovery Project and is being
funded by a $5 million award by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The project will be a cost-effective and
environmentally benign process to simultaneously treat AMD and recover Rare
Earth Element (REE) oxides from acidic coal mine drainage and related products
that result from its treatment.
“We welcome the opportunity to recover value
from mine drainage treatment while helping to create a domestic supply chain of
strategic materials to the rest of the country,” said WVDEP Cabinet Secretary
Austin Caperton. “Our agency can play an important role by working with WVU to
develop acid mine drainage treatment plants that use Rare Earth Element oxide
REE are a set of 17 chemical elements in the
periodic table that, despite their name, are plentiful in the Earth’s crust and
used in the production of electronics, batteries, glasses, medical
applications, and more. High concentrations of REE oxides are found in AMD
A regional survey conducted by WVWRI found 700
tons of REE in AMD sludge cells on mine sites in the northern and central
Appalachian Coal Basins. Those mines could produce about 1,000 tons of REE
annually, with an estimated value of $245 million.
AMD impacts thousands of miles of rivers and
streams in West Virginia and treatment sites generate thousands of tons of
sludge each year. Managing this sludge is expensive and can delay bringing
other treatment sites online.
“The WVDEP fully supports WVWRI’s efforts in
developing a new way to treat AMD,” said Mike Sheehan, deputy director of the
Division of Land Reclamation at the WVDEP. “The extraction of REE oxides could
serve as a potential revenue source that could offset some of OSR’s treatment
OSR will design and build the plant, while Rockwell
Automation will provide sensor and control technology and TenCate Corporation will
engineer materials for the REE oxide extraction process.
For more WVDEP news and
information, go to www.dep.wv.gov. Also, connect with the agency on
all social media platforms. Follow @DEPWV on Twitter, Like us on Facebook
at https://www.facebook.com/depwv/, and find us on YouTube by
searching “Environment Matters.”
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