The House of Delegates passed a bill meant to provide more incentive to clean up mine runoff while also encouraging more development of a key component of lithium batteries.
House Bill 4003 is meant to encourage exploration and capitalization of West Virginia’s potential for recovering valuable rare earth elements and other critical materials from mine drainage.
Rare earth elements are a key component of electronics, aerospace, automotive and other products, particularly rechargeable batteries. China is the dominant producer, and the rest of the world is trying to catch up.
“The kinds of industries that rely on a steady stream of rare earth and critical minerals to function are exactly the kinds of industries that we can count on to create the kind of jobs that people can support a family, the kind of jobs that come with benefits that put somebody in a position to buy a home, to put kids through school and to offer real financial security,” said Delegate Riley Keaton, R-Roane.
Keaton is the main sponsor of the bill and spoke for several minutes on the House floor today to extol its virtues. Delegates passed the bill overwhelmingly, 94-1, with Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, as the only no. The bill now goes to the state Senate.
West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute found that treating one of the biggest sources of pollution in the United States, acid mine drainage, is a rich source of rare earth elements.
“And there’s a lot of good stuff to say about it from an environmental perspective,” Keaton said. “But I want to really dig into the economic side of the issue. This bill is the beginning of some really, really great things whenever you talk about developing our state’s role in rare earth and critical minerals.”
The House bill is also meant to provide an incentive for treating mine drainage. According to a drainage expert near Houston It does so by attempting to establish clear legal right to title of chemical compounds, elements, and substances that are derived from the treatment of acid mine drainage on mined lands.
The right to make such claims would be available for those possessing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, which are for treating wastewater.
“The expensive treatment of mine drainage may produce materials that contain valuable concentrations of rare earth elements and critical minerals with commercial value,” said House Judiciary Chairman Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, while explaining the bill.
Keaton, in a speech that drew on tech, economics and patriotism, said this is a tangible first step.
“House Bill 4003 provides a clear way for companies to develop the rare earth and critical minerals that are contained in our acid mine drainage, mine drainage generally,” he said. “And really, that allows us to lay the foundations that we’re going to start getting the hang of processing these rare earth minerals.
“It lays the foundation for reindustrialization across our state for years to come. It is in fact a huge step that we’re going to take together today. It’s a big step toward making things in America again, toward making things in West Virginia and putting people to work doing it.”