MP Materials awarded $3 million by US DOE for project to extract rare earths from coal by-products

May 19, 2021

MP Materials, a producer of rare earth materials and owner and operator of the Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine and Processing Facility in Mountain Pass, California, USA, reports that it has received a $3 million award from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to complete a feasibility study, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky, on a system to produce rare earth oxides, metals, and other critical materials recovered from coal by-products. This project is enabled by a DOE exercised option of a previous MP Materials and University of Kentucky conceptual study.

Pursuant to this project, MP Materials and the University of Kentucky will advance their design for a modular system to concentrate coal by-product locally in Kentucky. The concentrate will then be delivered to Mountain Pass, where MP Materials will leverage its existing capabilities to refine and extract the individual rare earth elements from concentrate before reducing them to metal. The collaboration aims to minimise the system’s capital and operating costs, as well as its environmental footprint while maximising economic opportunities for coal communities.

“The clean technologies powering the future depend on powerful rare earth magnets to turn energy into motion,” stated Michael Rosenthal, Chief Operating Officer, MP Materials. “As the economy electrified, achieving a sustainable means to extract critical materials from the by-products of fossil fuel extraction would diversify the supply base while providing valuable economic opportunity to communities across the country. We appreciate the support of the Department of Energy and the opportunity to collaborate with the world-class experts at the University of Kentucky as we work to advance this study.”

Dr Joshua Werner, Assistant Professor and University of Kentucky principal investigator, commented, “We are grateful for the opportunity that this collaboration with MP Materials represents to make a strategic and environmental difference. The significance of this work is the ability to partner with MP Materials and their deep expertise to provide a vertically-integrated, domestic rare earth supply chain to extract additional value from waste streams for the green revolution. This project is exciting because it combines elements of economic development in depressed communities with the potential for environmental justice by turning a potential liability into a valuable asset. This work is made possible by DOE funding and the pioneering efforts of researchers at the University of Kentucky.”

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