Rare Earth Elements

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

A pilot-scale facility that extracts valuable rare earth elements from coal waste byproducts officially opened its doors this week at West Virginia University.

Advocates of the project are hopeful that environmental waste left by Appalachia’s coal mining legacy could one day fuel an economic boom in the region while also providing some national security.

On The Legislature Today, there are several highly-watched bills seeing action this week – the Senate unanimously passed the community and technical college bill, Governor Jim Justice signed a bill eliminating the West Virginia Film Tax Credit, and some public education employees have announced a rally here at the Capitol for Feb. 17. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussions over a proposed Intermediate Court of Appeals is the subject of debate. Host Andrea Lannom chats with Senate Judiciary Chairman Charlie Trump, R-Morgan, about the issue – SB 341.

Larry Dowling / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Throughout coal mining country of the Eastern U.S. you will find streams that run a peculiar rusty orange. It’s the result of pollution called acid mine drainage, or AMD. It’s estimated that about 10,000 miles of streams are polluted by AMD in Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone. In fact, researchers have calculated that every second, coal mines throughout the region are pumping out about 3,000 cubic feet of AMD. That’s roughly equal to an average May day’s flow of water in the Monongahela River as it winds through the region.