FAQ

Frequently asked questions.

What are rare earth elements?

While comprising just 17 elements of the periodic table, the group known as rare earth elements (REEs) provides significant value to our national security, energy independence, environmental future, and economic growth.  REEs are found throughout the earth’s crust but most often occur in low concentrations.  They are not found in isolated form but in a variety of minerals.  REE-bearing mineral deposits are relatively rich in either light rare earth elements (LREEs) or heavy rare earth elements (HREEs), with LREEs being more abundant.

The REEs include the lanthanides:  lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu) and transition elements: scandium (Sc) and yttrium (Y).

Why are rare earth elements important?

REEs provide significant value to our national security, energy independence, environmental future, and economic growth. REEs are important elements used in high technology products, such as catalysts, cell phones, hard drives, hybrid engines, lasers, magnets, medical devices, televisions, and other applications. The development of an economically competitive domestic supply of REEs will help to maintain our nation’s economic growth and national security. America’s vast coal resources contain significant quantities of REEs.

What are rare earth elements used for?

REEs are important elements used in high-technology products, such as catalysts, cell phones, hard drives, hybrid engines, lasers, magnets, medical devices, televisions, and other applications. Substitute materials are being developed for some applications, but do not work as well as the actual REEs.

How will utilizing coal and coal by-products as a source of rare eath elements build a better tomorrow?

Extracting REEs via our coal mining operations and power plant processes reduces the environmental impacts, production costs, and processing steps needed to create market-ready REE materials. Domestic job creation and restored market share in the world's supply chain may also provide the U.S. with economic value, especially in regions where coal mining and coal-fired power plants are falling out of favor.  

What is the overall goal of the Department of Energy’s Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal By-Products program?

The program is focused on developing technologies for the clean, efficient and economic recovery of REEs from coal and coal by-products that can be developed and implemented within the United States.