HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 12
(By Delegates Higginbotham, Ellington, Atkinson, Dean, Hamrick, Hanna, J. Jeffries, Phillips, Rohrbach, Steele, Toney and Waxman)
[Introduced January 15, 2020]
Requesting West Virginia University researchers study the feasibility of extracting rare earth elements from coal ash.
Whereas, The U.S. coal industry is facing tough times. Demand for coal is dwindling, and the industry is under fire for polluting streams and rivers with coal ash and acid mine drainage. But in that waste, and in some cases in the coal itself, are valuable rare-earth elements that may be readily recovered. If researchers can figure out how to extract them economically, sales of rare earths could help pay for some of the cleanup costs now borne by the coal industry and several coal-mining states; and
Whereas, Demand for rare-earth elements, which include the lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium, has ticked upward over the past few decades. The long list of high-tech products that rely on rare earths include cell phones, flat-screen TVs, vehicles, energy production satellites, defense aircraft, and high-performance magnets; and
Whereas, In 2015, global demand for rare-earth elements was 149,000 metric tons per year, according to Mary Anne Alvin, technology manager of rare-earth elements at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The U.S. consumes about 11%, or 16,000 metric tons per year; and
Whereas, Rare-earth elements are not commodities that are domestically produced. The U.S. gets its supply from China and elsewhere. If there was a disturbance in the supply chain and we need these materials, especially for our national security, the question is, “What do we do?” For example, if tensions between the U.S. and China escalate, China could cut off much of the U.S. supply of rare earth metals; therefore, be it
Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the West Virginia University researchers study the feasibility of extracting rare earth elements from coal ash; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the West Virginia University researchers are requested to report to the regular session of the Legislature, 2021, on its findings, conclusions, and recommendations, together with drafts of any legislation necessary to effectuate its recommendations.