Missouri S&T hosts first in series of national critical minerals workshops

July 19, 2021

What are critical minerals, where do we find them, and why are they considered critical? Leading critical-minerals experts from across the country will answer these questions and more during a virtual workshop hosted by Missouri University of Science and Technology Aug. 2-3. The workshop will provide insight and answers to issues surrounding materials such as cobalt for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles, germanium for transistors, tellurium for solar cells and rare earth elements for magnets and electronics.

“The term ‘critical minerals’ describes commodities whose unreliable supply threatens our nation’s economy and defense,” said workshop organizer Dr. Marek Locmelis, assistant professor of geology and geophysics at Missouri S&T. “The critical-minerals discussion cuts across a variety of disciplines, from mining and geosciences to public policy to environmental considerations. Important concerns are sustainability, ethical and responsible sourcing, and research for compounds that could replace critical minerals.”

Missouri S&T will host eight keynote presenters:

• Roderick G. Eggert, Critical Minerals Institute, Colorado School of Mines
• Thomas E. Graedel, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
• Jon J. Kellar, the Douglas Fuerstenau Professor of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering, South Dakota Schools of Mines and Technology
• Julie M. Klinger, Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, University of Delaware
• Michael J. Magyar, National Minerals Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey
• Michael Moats, Thomas J. O’Keefe Institute for Sustainable Supply of Strategic Minerals, Missouri S&T
• Nedal T. Nassar, National Minerals Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey
• John Uhrie, vice president of exploration, research and technical development, Doe Run Co.

Keynote presentations will address several topics: supply chains, global politics, domestic sourcing and production, recycling and reprocessing. The workshop will also address the illicit critical-mineral economy, a topic of increasing urgency as critical minerals are sometimes unethically mined – for example, using child labor and human trafficking – and illegally marketed, similar to issues associated with conflict diamonds.

The workshop will also feature breakout sessions where participants will discuss research needs in areas related to the keynote presentations. The discussions can be used to inform Congress and develop federal funding initiatives.

The workshop is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation and is the first in a planned series of national conversations about critical minerals. The workshops will bring together representatives from higher education, industry and government to help spur action and disseminate research on critical minerals.

“We are grateful for the NSF’s support for this crucial topic,” says Locmelis. “We will continue the discussions during an in-person workshop on the Missouri S&T campus in mid-2022. Because the critical-mineral challenge will stay with us for decades, we look forward to developing the workshop into a regular series of meetings in the future.”

In addition to Locmelis, workshop organizers include Dr. Michael Moats, professor and interim chair of materials science and engineering; Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei, interim director of mining and explosives engineering; Dr. Lana Alagha, associate professor of mining engineering; Dr. Mark Fitch, assistant chair and associate professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering; Dr. Alanna Krolikowski, assistant professor of history and political science; and Dr. Angela Lueking, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and Computing at Missouri S&T.

The workshop is open to anyone who is interested in critical minerals. For more information or to register, visit criticalminerals.mst.edu/.

 

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