Friday, July 7, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Critical minerals are essential to our economy, particularly in the rapidly developing renewable energy sector. National security concerns are also at the forefront, as the processing and refinement of many of these materials occur overseas. This leaves the U.S. vulnerable to shortages should tensions with any global suppliers escalate.
Missouri is home to 29 of the 50 critical minerals identified by the U.S. Geological Survey needed to advance the green economy. Included are gallium and germanium, two minerals needed for semiconductors and solar panels. Earlier this week, China imposed export controls on both of those critical elements. In fact, in the escalating tensions over “critical minerals,” according to the Washington Post, “China dominates the entire value chain in many of these products, accounting for more than half of the world’s production of battery metals including lithium, cobalt, and manganese, and as much as 100% of rare earths.”
We here at S&T are well-equipped to take center stage as a national leader in critical minerals research. In recent years, for example, S&T researchers have won grants to:
In fact, next month, Dr. Locmelis will host the third annual workshop on Resilient Supply of Critical Minerals. This national workshop, funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, brings together leaders from government, industry, national laboratories and higher education to discuss various aspects of the critical minerals situation, including minerals processing and recycling, critical mineral policies, and the ethical and environmentally sustainable supply of critical minerals.
Missouri S&T’s expertise in critical minerals is also gaining notice from policymakers. Last February, members of Congress called on Dr. Michael Moats, chair of our materials science and engineering department, to provide expert testimony on critical minerals production in the U.S. and the impact of foreign production on the nation’s economy. Dr. Moats testified before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources and called on the U.S. to “level the playing field” for U.S. mining companies and invest more in educating the future critical minerals workforce.
Drs. Alagha, Locmelis and Moats are members of the Thomas J. O’Keefe Institute for Sustainable Supply of Strategic Materials. The O’Keefe Institute is focused on:
Fortunately, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s 2024 state budget allocates significant funds “for a study on extracting critical minerals for the manufacture of batteries in Missouri.” At S&T, our researchers propose to extract critical minerals from the leftover tailing and slag piles of mining operations that have accumulated for over 100 years in Missouri and other mining-rich regions of the United States.
For over 150 years, Missouri S&T, founded in 1870 as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, has conducted research in fields ranging from mining to extraction to refinement to application-ready material development. Today, relying on our strong ore-to-product research strength, we stand ready to help address the critical needs of our nation's supply of critical minerals that just became more CRITICAL.
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