Acid mine drainage (AMD) from abandoned coal mines is preventing life from thriving in rivers and streams. A new video (above) demonstrates how West Virginia University (WVU) and Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK) together devised a solution for cleaning up this pollutant at the watershed level.
In addition to turning acid mine drainage into clean water, Paul Ziemkiewicz, Ph.D., Director of Water Research at WVU and his team discovered that the remaining AMD sludge was a source of rare earth elements (REE).
“Acid mine drainage happens when coal waste rock weathers and forms sulfuric acid,” Ziemkiewicz said. “The acid leaches all manner of metal pollutants out of rock, so why wouldn’t it leach rare earths? Mother Nature does that heavy lifting for free. Fortunately, AMD is, in fact, enriched in rare earth elements and critical materials in an easily recovered form. Best of all, you can’t recover them without treating AMD to environmental standards. Our byproduct is clean water.”
Rockwell provided sensor and control technology, and developed a pilot plant for REE extraction, to help push this sustainability initiative forward. WVU has plans to launch REE production from acid mine drainage across the United States.
In this interview, learn more about how Rockwell and WVU are joining forces on sustainability initiatives.
Published November 9, 2022