Hoeven: North Dakota Lignite Presents Opportunity to Develop Domestic Source of Rare Earth Elements

Senator Highlights UND Project, Stresses Need to Reduce Dependence on China

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee this week, Senator 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 underway at UND to extract these elements from domestic sources and reduce our dependence on adversarial nations like China.”

Through his role on the ENR Committee and the Energy Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has worked to strengthen the partnership between the Department of Energy, UND and its Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), including the institution’s efforts to develop value-added applications for coal, such as producing rare earth elements and graphene. This comes as part of Hoeven’s broader efforts to provide a true path forward for North Dakota’s coal producers and ensure the nation continues to harness this abundant resource. Among other things, the senator:

  • Helped fund the Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, which is led by the EERC, as well as the CarbonSAFE Initiative, which earlier this year awarded $17 million to Project Tundra, a carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) led by the EERC.
  • Advanced the implementation of the 45Q tax credit to help make CCUS projects more commercially-viable.
  • Continues to work to ensure a fair value for coal as a reliable and affordable source of baseload power.