Barletta brings energy secretary to Ebervale to launch ‘new chapter’ for coal industry – News

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ELLEN F. O’CONNELL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER While standing in front of a dragline excavator shovel, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, at podium, and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry share a laugh while talking with the press and employees of the Jeddo Coal Company in Ebervale on Thursday. The two toured the Rare Earth Elements extraction project, a coal reclamation site, and an anthracite mining operation.

Photo: ellen, License: N/A, Created: 2017:09:28 13:44:54

ELLEN F. O’CONNELL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER While standing in front of a dragline excavator, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, at podium, and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, at his right, talk with the press and employees of the Jeddo Coal Company during a tour of the facility in Ebervale on Thursday. The men also toured the Rare Earth Elements extraction project site, a coal reclamation site and an anthracite mining operation on the property. The politicians addressed the importance of anthracite coal and its rare metals that are an important part of everything from cellphones and computers to defense systems.

EBERVALE — A grant-funded program that evaluates methods for extracting rare earth materials from coal waste could fuel the coal industry for generations to come, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Congressman Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, said while touring Jeddo Coal Company mining operations on Thursday.

While touring a potential rare earth elements extraction site, an active anthracite mining operation near Stockton Mountain and reclaimed mine lands, Barletta and Perry touted the role that coal —and the rare metals found in it — could play in creating jobs and reducing America’s reliance on countries for rare metals that are used in U.S. defense systems and commercial electronics.

“This country’s future is wrapped around the men and women of this part of the country,” Perry said from a podium stationed near a massive dragline excavator. “For too long, coal in this country is reviled. It’s time coal in this country is revived.”

Rare earth metals are used in commercial electronics, such as cellphones, electric cars and computers, as well as fighter jets.

The tour was arranged a few months after Barletta announced that he helped secure a $1 million grant that the U.S. Department of Energy awarded to a consortium that is evaluating rare earth processing methods for feedstock provided by Jeddo Coal Company.

Penn State University, Texas Minerals Resources Corp., Indenture Renewables and K Technologies are involved in the local consortium. It will compete against similar projects for a $20 million grant that the Energy Department will award to the group that shows the most potential for extracting the rare metals economically.

Barletta called the rare earth metal initiative a “new chapter” and said the future for the industry looks bright with an estimated 300 to 500 years of inventories projected in the Northeast.

“This is not our grandfather’s coal,” Barletta said. “This is used for manufacturing steel and, now, we are finding these rare earth materials that we are buying from China. (A consortium involving) Penn State is seeing how we can extract these rare earth elements that are nowhere else, right here.”

James R. Pagnotti, Jeddo Coal Company president, said the goal is to provide a dependable supply of rare earth materials in Northeast Pennsylvania, rather than having to rely on China and other countries.

David Swisher, chief operating officer at Pagnotti Enterprises, said the recently awarded energy department grant will allow for further studies “to provide the efficacy of their rare earth processing method” that uses feedstock from Jeddo Coal Company.

The processing method is being developed in conjunction with Penn State and relies on continuous ion exchange and ion chromatography — which is believed to be cleaner and more efficient than the solvent exchange method that is presently used for processing rare earth elements, Swisher said.

Dan Gorski, chief executive officer of Texas Mineral Resources, said geologists have known for a long time that metals are associated with coal, but said they never had the system to understand the extraction process.

Without a domestic supply, America has no choice but to rely on China — which Gorski said produces about 99 percent of those rare metals.

“Until we are able to stand alone and phase in our own technology, we’re kind of in uncomfortable territory,” Gorski said.

Perry said the rare metal extraction process creates “staggeringly important” opportunities for the industry and country.

“I think it’s a really important message coming from this administration that whether it’s rare minerals, whether it’s that load of coal that’s headed to Ukraine, the future is bright,” Perry said. “If we won’t stifle it with overtaxing it, over-regulating it, to nurture it, to work with it, to be a partner with it — that’s what the message is. We’re going to find the ways to use this natural resource that we have to the betterment not just to America, but to our allies as well.”

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