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Rare earth discoveries mean there’s a future for coal mining

Coal plays a major role in the world’s electricity generation, but it has a significant impact on the environment.

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From Pennsylvania to northern England, coal mining powered the Industrial Revolution and accelerated economic growth in countries around the world.

But today, the production and use of coal has become a thorny issue, with critics criticizing the enormous impact fossil fuels have on the environment.

organizations like greenpeace Explain about coal as “the dirtiest and most polluting method of energy production”.from United Nations Secretary General to international energy agencytalk of phasing out coal is becoming increasingly common.

However, the world situation is complex. Many factors are at play, not least the desire of some countries, especially emerging ones, to use coal as a vehicle for economic development.

As the debate around coal continues, the debate over its use and coal-related infrastructure in the transition to a more sustainable future has become one of the more paradoxical aspects of the energy transition.

US companies in May Llamaco Resources We provided some insight into what role coal is likely to play in the coming years.

The company, in collaboration with mining consultancy firm Weir International and researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, has published an independent report containing a technical assessment of rare earth elements (REEs) found at one of its mines in Wyoming. announced.

This finding appears to be important. “After 18 months of extensive core excavation and independent chemical analysis, NETL researchers and Mr. Ramaco now believe that the Brook Mine property contains perhaps the largest unconventional rare earth mineral deposits discovered in the United States. “We believe that this includes,” Ramako said.

In an interview with CNBC’s Kelly Evans “The Exchange” Earlier this month, Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins explained why his company bought the site in the first place and how its plans have changed over time.

“It was a fairly large reserve, and it was very affordable, so we thought we might do it as a thermal coal proposition, but you know, the world was moving pretty quickly about 10 years ago. “It’s changed,” he said.

“And the idea of ​​putting money into a thermal mine became very unappealing. So our approach was basically, ‘What else can we do with this material?'”

This led the company to a “10-year journey to discover various other alternative uses for coal.”

Discoveries like the one in Wyoming could be of strategic importance as China holds a monopoly on the supply and refining of rare earths and the race to deploy tomorrow’s technologies intensifies.

“The majority of rare earth deposits outside China are associated with ‘conventional’ mines and are found in igneous hardstone deposits, making them difficult and expensive to mine and process,” Ramaco said. Ta.

“In contrast, Brook Mine’s rare earths are characterized as ‘unconventional’ as they are primarily found in clay layers located above and below the coal seam itself,” the report added.

“It is expected that it can be mined using conventional surface mining techniques and that it can be processed in a more economical and environmentally friendly manner than traditional rare earth minerals.”

Light of hope?

Wyoming is not the only state in the United States being considered for coal and rare earth mining. For example, in April, West Virginia University stated: The researchers will receive an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

It added that the funding will enable it to continue developing and advancing “pioneering methods for extracting and separating rare earth elements and critical minerals from acid mine drainage and coal waste.”

Elsewhere, researchers have pennsylvania state university It also focuses on how waste from coal mines can be used to source rare earths and critical minerals.

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Across the Atlantic, efforts are also taking shape to repurpose old coal mines for years to come.

In Scotland, researchers are investigating flooding. old and unused mine It can be used to provide carbon-free heating to buildings.

Besides coal, there are other energy sources that have the potential to produce by-products essential for sustainable technologies such as EV batteries.

Geothermal Engineering, South West England, recently said: lithium will be produced As a by-product of a project focused on geothermal power generation.

The company says it will have enough lithium to supply about 250,000 electric vehicle batteries a year.

“GEL’s main geothermal operations, which provide baseload geothermal power and heat, produce naturally hot geothermal brines from which lithium can be sustainably extracted as a by-product onshore in the UK,” the report said. Ta.

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Despite the promising developments mentioned above, the fact remains that coal continues to play a major role in electricity generation, accounting for just over a third worldwide. According to the IEA.

Nevertheless, discoveries like the one in Wyoming represent a glimmer of hope.

When asked by CNBC if there is a possibility that more similar species will be discovered, Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins expressed cautious optimism. “I think it’s logical to conclude that there probably is,” he said.

https://www.cnbc.com/2023/11/24/rare-earth-discoveries-mean-coal-mines-could-have-a-future.html Rare earth discoveries mean there’s a future for coal mining

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