Missouri S&T team awarded pollution prevention grant from Environmental Protection Agency

press release

February 1, 2023

ROLLA, Mo. – A Missouri University of Science and Technology research group has been awarded a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is aimed at preventing pollution in the mining industry.

Guang Xu, an assistant professor of mining engineering at Missouri S&T is working to reduce pollution related to the mining industry. “What is exciting about this grant award is that we will be able to work to reduce pollution related to acid mist, while also providing assistance and suggestions to the mining industry,” said Xu. “We will also focus on environmental justice and promoting this concept.”

One aspect of Xu’s project will be to explore acid mist suppressants for the copper electro-winning industry that are more environmentally friendly than FC-1100, which is a fluorochemical reagent known as a “forever chemical” that can cause serious environmental issues.

Electrowinning refers to the process of adding ore into a chemical solution and introducing an electric current that will separate the metal from the ore. One side effect of this process is the production of acid mist, made up of sulphuric acid and copper sulphate, which can be harmful to the environment.

The project was awarded $350,000 over the next two years and includes the development of case studies, two workshops and a teaching module focused on environmental justice. The workshops will be held at national conferences and will include participants from mining and chemical manufacturing industries.

Xu said the work is especially important when considering the current push in the United States to develop electric vehicles (EVs), which require significant amounts of copper for their batteries, wiring, motors and charging stations.

“People would like to purchase EVs to help with the environment,” Xu said. “However, this requires additional copper mining, which can cause different environmental issues. We are looking to mitigate these issues.”

Xu said he is proud to take part in this grant project, as it could lead to important developments with how the mining industry considers its impact on the environment.

“Missouri S&T is one of the top mining engineering programs in the nation, and this grant will support us in training the current workforce, as well as current students and post-doctoral researchers,” he said.

The co-principal investigator for the project is Professor Michael Moats, who is chair of S&T’s materials science department. The EPA funded this grant as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. For more information about Missouri S&T’s mining engineering program, visit mee.mst.edu.

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. S&T also is home to the Kummer Institute, made possible by a $300 million gift from Fred and June Kummer. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.


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