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Sen. John Hoeven says ND lignite presents opportunity to develop domestic source of rare earth elements

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee this past week, Sen. John Hoeven stressed to administration officials and industry representatives the importance of diversifying the United States’ sources of rare earth elements through use of the nation’s abundant coal reserves, including those in North Dakota.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $6.5 million to the University of North Dakota (UND) last year to construct a pilot plant that will extract these elements from the state’s lignite coal, which contains higher concentrations of rare earth elements compared to other coal types.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted weaknesses within the U.S. supply chain, including our ability to source rare earth elements,” said Hoeven. “This leaves us at a serious disadvantage, as we rely on these resources in a wide range of industries and technologies, including for defense and energy production and storage, which are critical to our nation’s security. That’s why we need to continue investing in efforts like those under way at UND to extract these elements from domestic sources and reduce our dependence on adversarial nations like China.”

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