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OSMRE funds efforts to extract critical minerals from mine wastes


Date: September 20, 2022
Contact: (202) 208-2565


WASHINGTON – As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to address legacy pollution and promote the sustainable and responsible domestic development of critical minerals, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is funding eight projects to share $1.6 million through its Applied Science Program, including four projects that will study methods to improve the recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from coal mining waste.

The Applied Science Program advances the development of technology, tools and methods to protect the public and the environment during coal mining and reclamation of abandoned coal mine sites. This is the first time that OSMRE has included the identification and recovery of REEs as an eligible topic. REEs play an essential role in a number of materials needed for today's clean energy technologies and are included on the U.S. Geological Survey list of critical minerals.

"OSMRE is excited to support researchers developing new and better methods to extract REEs from coal waste and coal byproducts, which will support the nation's effort to develop new sources of critical minerals while also addressing longstanding environmental problems plaguing coal communities and polluting waterways across the country," said Deputy Director Glenda Owens.

From a pool of 39 project proposals received across the nation, OSMRE selected eight of the most relevant and promising proposals for funding. The following projects have been awarded: 

  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology: To develop a bio-electrochemical extraction process of rare earth elements from coal mine waste.
  • Southern Illinois University: To investigate an economical and environment-friendly rare earth elements recovery strategy.
  • University of Pittsburgh: To optimize rare earth element capture during treatment of acid mine drainage.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: To develop a new method for interpreting open-source remote sensing data to better characterize vegetative cover and type on reclaimed surface coal mines.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: To enhance dewatering of acid mine drainage sludge with a low-cost, efficient method.
  • West Virginia University Research Corporation: To optimize dewatering of remote acid mine drainage treatment sites.
  • West Virginia University Research Corporation: To use unmanned aerial vehicles for long-term planning and control of invasive species.
  • West Virginia University Research Corporation: To extract rare earth elements from Appalachian coarse coal refuse.

Projects are funded up to $200,000 through a cooperative agreement. Each agreement is established for a period consistent with the proposal; generally, agreements do not exceed two years from the date of the award. For more information on the Applied Science Program and funded projects, please visit


The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement carries out the requirements of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 in cooperation with states and Tribes. OSMRE’s objectives are to ensure that coal mining activities are conducted in a manner that protects citizens and the environment during mining, to ensure that the land is restored to beneficial use after mining, and to mitigate the effects of past mining by aggressively pursuing reclamation of abandoned coal mines.