Critical Minerals and the Legacy Mine Environment: A Proposed Data Collection Program to Help Address the U.S. Critical Minerals Gap

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Elizabeth Holley, Robin Bullock, Priscilla Nelson, Erik Spiller, and Fellow Sara Hastings-Simon write about how the United States is in the midst of a robust national debate regarding supply chains for the critical minerals needed to facilitate, support and drive the clean energy economy, and to anchor national security. The issue is well-categorized in the recent White House 100-Day Task Force Report under EO 14017. As with most energy and resource topics, opinions vary widely – buy from trusted allies and foreign sources, source via recycling, accelerate U.S. mineral exploration, process from unconventional feedstocks (coal and coal ash), and search for more readily available alternatives. Ultimately, we will likely need all of these options, operating simultaneously, to provide the minerals and materials necessary to ensure national and economic security, generate jobs, and stimulate economic growth.  We propose a rapid assessment of an additional, often overlooked resource category: mining waste from approximately 500,000 legacy and abandoned sites scattered throughout the country.  December 9, 2021.