March 31, 2022

Manchin Welcomes WVU's Dr. Ziemkiewicz To Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, welcomed Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, Director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University (WVU), to testify before the committee on the opportunities and challenges facing domestic critical mineral mining, processing, refining and reprocessing.

During the hearing, Chairman Manchin praised the innovative research and efforts led by Dr. Ziemkiewicz’s team at WVU to extract critical rare earth elements from acid mine drainage.

“West Virginia’s coal communities bear the scars of having mined the coal to power this country to greatness. This legacy includes acid mine drainage that pollutes streams across West Virginia as a result of abandoned and bond-forfeited mines. But while this harmful pollution is a blight on our communities, Dr. Ziemkiewicz and his team have done incredible work in partnership with the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. They are demonstrating that we can clean up these problem areas while extracting the rare earth elements we need in the process. This work has the potential to be a game changer,” said Chairman Manchin.

Dr. Ziemkiewicz highlighted the opportunity to simultaneously address environmental concerns across West Virginia while meeting the growing demand for critical minerals nationwide.

“No additional mining is needed, and the process does not produce radioactive byproducts like most conventional rare earth mines. Acid mine drainage provides the rare earths in a form that is easily recovered, requiring no rock grinding nor intensive processing. As a result, our carbon footprint is about one half as much as a conventional mining and milling operation,” Dr. Ziemkiewicz said. “Success will turn an environmental liability into an economic opportunity while cleaning up the environment.”

Chairman Manchin then questioned Dr. Ziemkiewicz on the extent to which resources gathered from acid mine drainage across Appalachia can be used to effectively meet America’s mineral demand and reduce our reliance on foreign supply chains.

The hearing featured witnesses from the Securing America's Future Energy, Twin Metals Minnesota, U.S. Department of the Interior, Uranium Producers of America and West Virginia University. To read their testimony click here.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.
To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.
To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.