Missouri S&T research team awarded pollution prevention grant from EPA

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On February 1, 2023

A Missouri S&T research group was recently awarded a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is aimed at preventing pollution in the mining industry.

Guang Xu
Dr. Guang Xu, an assistant professor of mining engineering at Missouri S&T, is working to reduce pollution related to the mining industry. Photo by Tom Wagner/Missouri S&T.

“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,” says Dr. Guang Xu, an associate professor of mining engineering. “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 electrowinning 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, which 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 for the environment.

The project, which was awarded $350,000 and will take place over the next two years, will also include 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 both mining and chemical manufacturing industries.

Xu says his work is especially important when considering the current push in the United States for using electric vehicles, which require significant amounts of copper for their batteries, wiring, motors and charging stations.

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

Xu says 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 says.

The co-principal investigator for this project is Dr. Michael Moats, who is chair of S&T’s materials sciences 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.

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

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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