Missouri S&T leads national push to address critical minerals crisis, receives workshop funding

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On February 28, 2023

Bauxite, shown here, is the primary ore used to produce aluminum, a critical mineral that is used in most industrial sectors in the United States. Bauxite also contains gallium, which is necessary for multiple types of technology, including wireless internet and smartphones. Photo by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The United States is in the midst of a critical minerals crisis, and Missouri S&T is becoming known as a national hub to discuss and develop solutions to this issue. The university was recently awarded funding from the National Science Foundation to host the third annual Resilient Supply of Critical Minerals workshop Wednesday, Aug. 9, and Thursday, Aug. 10.

Dr. Marek Locmelis, associate professor of geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering at S&T and faculty fellow in research and innovation, is once again leading the event.

“The purpose of this workshop series is to provide an annual platform to continuously develop and improve roadmaps to help increase the resilience and sustainable and ethical supply of critical minerals for the United States,” Locmelis says. “It is vital that we accomplish this for the United States to grow as a society and make the transition to clean energy.”

Signaling the urgency of the critical minerals crisis, Dr. Michael Moats, chair of materials science and engineering at Missouri S&T and co-organizer of the workshop, recently appeared before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee and provided expert testimony on this topic.

“Critical minerals are very important to modern life,” Moats told the subcommittee. “We often focus on the battery minerals and the rare earths, but if you don’t have gallium you don’t have Wi-Fi. If you don’t have indium you don’t have the touchscreen. If you don’t have tellurium you don’t have some solar panels. There’s a lot more to it than just the battery minerals and the rare earths that are often talked about in the news.”

Of the 87 elements used for manufacturing, the U.S. Geological Survey says that 50 count as critical minerals, further demonstrating the importance of this issue.

Shelby Clark, a geology and geophysics Ph.D. student at S&T who is co-organizing the workshop, agrees with this assessment and the urgency to find solutions.

“We have to make progress on this issue now, and Missouri S&T is uniquely positioned to make a difference across the supply chain,” she says. “We have experts at S&T in mining, geology, materials science, metallurgy, environmental sciences and engineering, economics and political science. What we will do at the workshop is bring together these experts from our university, as well as professionals from other institutions, the government and companies. It is a great opportunity for everyone to get out of their bubbles and more directly collaborate.”

Locmelis says he hopes the workshop will inspire some immediate action to help with the critical minerals crisis.
“In our previous workshops, we discussed our research needs,” he says. “Now, we will put groups together to kickstart collaborations that will help address these issues.”

This will be the first year the workshop will be held on campus, as COVID-19 concerns led to previous sessions being held remotely. An online option will be available as well. The workshop’s schedule and specific speakers will be announced in March.

The workshop is a joint effort by several departments at Missouri S&T. In addition to Locmelis, Clark and Moats, co-organizers from Missouri S&T include:

  • Dr. Alanna Krolikowski, assistant professor of history and political science
  • Dr. Mahelet Fikru, associate professor of economics
  • Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei, chair of mining and explosives engineering
  • Dr. Lana Alagha, associate professor of mining engineering
  • Dr. Mark Fitch, associate professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering

To keep up with event information as it is announced, visit criticalminerals.mst.edu.

About Missouri S&T

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. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu

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On February 28, 2023.

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