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Manufacturing Valuable Coal-Derived Products in Southern Appalachia
Project Number
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Develop and deploy new technologies for manufacturing rare earth elements (REE), critical minerals (CM), and valuable non-fuel, carbon-based products (CBP) from coal and/or coal waste in the SoApp Basin.


Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation – Knoxville, TN


Coal production in the Southern Appalachian Basin has fallen nearly 70% over the last decade leading to job losses in counties that are highly dependent on the coal industry. The decline in coal production is driven by a shift away from coal-fired electricity generation that is not expected to reverse. Revitalizing distressed Southern Appalachian coal communities requires development of new non-fuel uses for coal and coal byproducts. Further, mass market synergies have arisen in the region with growth in the automotive manufacturing with vehicle electrification industry and resilient buildings and infrastructure to withstand the hurricanes, coastal flooding, and tornadoes prevalent in the southern United States.  


Revitalize distressed Southern Appalachian coal communities and reduce reliance on foreign imports of REE and CM, through the development of new non-fuel uses for coal and coal byproducts that can support regional industry partners (especially the automotive industry) and increase building resilience.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

Data mining was used to collect data on coal-based CM-REE from existing sources.  Existing data for AL, GA, and TN have been compiled into a spreadsheet after doing a thorough search of CoalQual and DOE/NETL EDX databases.  Additional data were obtained from CoalQual to supplement the Alabama data provided by the Geological Survey of Alabama. Two of the nine databases connected to geology (GeoBase & GeoRef) have been searched to date. The Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company was visited to scan their coal mine map collection.  Scans were made on a U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation scanner which can be moved from site to site as needed. 450 mine maps were scanned (all in the Southern Tennessee Coalfields).  These mine maps have since been geo-registered and mine outline polygon GIS shapefiles have been produced. GIS shapefiles were obtained from the Tennessee Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Section which contains location information on gob piles, hazardous facilities, portals, vertical openings, industrial wastes, polluted waters, and acid mine drainage.  

Existing coal ash data and coal ash beneficial use industries in AL,GA, and TN was gathered and cataloged. Existing research on ash beneficial use as well as industry publications to gauge trends in ash harvesting, demand, testing, and research was also reviewed. Several potential future uses for coal ash were also explored.
The existing economic research on resource dependence and security costs to identify key considerations and features of REE security costs were reviewed. From this literature review, we identified five knowledge gaps that will need to be addressed to estimate REE dependent costs:

  1. U.S. Reliance on imports,
  2. short-run elasticity of REE supply and demand,
  3. whether China can exert monopoly power,
  4. the importance of REE to the US economy, and
  5. How much do REE supply shocks account for REE price fluctuations?  For instance, oil supply shocks account for about 40 percent of oil price fluctuations (Caldara, Cavallo et al. 2017).  Supply shocks alone would not constitute a market failure.  Nevertheless, market failures elsewhere in the economy may prevent slow capital and labor adjustments in response to the shock.  A supply shock could also constitute a market failure if it was the result of deliberate exercise of market power by Chinese suppliers.  Thus we are dealing with both incomplete and imperfectly competitive markets.  

Data was collected to estimate price and income elasticities that will be critical inputs to the calculation of REE security costs.    

Current Status

Collection and processing of ash, acid mine drainage, and fireclay samples are ongoing. Data to construct critical upstream and downstream supply chain linkages is being collected in formats useful for input-output models that are the industry standard for modeling supply chains.  Economic extraction models are being developed in cooperation with electric utility partners to model critical midstream supply chains that do not currently exist. U.S. trade data is being collected and analyzed to estimate components of REE security costs. The University of Alabama Library databases are currently being searched for relevant publications. Work was started to create a geologic model of coal seams and related strata in IHSPetra. 

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DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Kyle Clark ( or 304-285-5052)
University of Tennessee Knoxville – Charles Sims ( or 865-974-3825)
Collaborative Composite Solutions Corp. – Erin Brophy ( or 865-946-1722)