President Joe Biden’s administration has designated Missouri S&T in Rolla as one of two technology hubs in the state. The hubs are meant to help spur innovation and create jobs in various industries.
The Critical Minerals and Materials for Advanced Energy Tech Hub aims to position south-central Missouri as a global leader in critical minerals processing to provide the materials needed to support battery technology.
The second tech hub will be located in Kansas City and led by BioNexus KC. Known as the Inclusive Biologics and Biomanufacturing Tech Hub (KCBioHub), more than 60 partner organizations plan to ramp up life-saving vaccine production and other preventative technologies to become a global leader in biomanufacturing and life sciences.
This announcement comes after lawmakers in Jefferson City appropriated $16 million in the state budget for fiscal year 2024 to the Missouri Department of Economic Development to support Missouri S&T research on mining and refining critical minerals. The money will be used to equip a demonstration facility and demonstrate feasilbity of a Missouri-based supply chain for lithium-ion cathode materials for the manufacture of batteries in Missouri.
According to school officials, critical minerals include rare-earth elements, nickel, cobalt, and other minerals determined by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to be essential to the nation’s economy, especially the energy and defense sectors.
“Critical minerals are essential to our economy, particularly in the rapidly developing renewable energy sector,” said Missouri S&T Chancellor Mohammad Dehghani. “National security concerns are also at the forefront, as the processing and refining of many of these materials occur overseas. This leaves the U.S. vulnerable to shortages should tensions with any global suppliers escalate.”
Missouri is home to 29 of the 50 critical minerals identified by the USGS needed to advance the green economy. Included are gallium and germanium, two minerals needed for semiconductors and solar panels.
“At S&T, our researchers propose to extract critical minerals from conventional and unconventional sources, such as the leftover piles of materials from mining operations that have accumulated for over 100 years in Missouri and other mining-rich regions of the United States,” Dehghani said.
Dehghani noted that China has imposed export controls on both of those critical elements. In fact, in the escalating tensions over “critical minerals,” according to The Washington Post, “China dominates the entire value chain in many of these products, accounting for more than half of the world’s production of battery metals including lithium, cobalt, and manganese, and as much as 100% of rare earths.”