Facebook / Michigan Tech University
What's happening: Over $10 million will come to the Upper Peninsula in hopes of finding new ways to recycle and reuse electrical vehicle batteries. The majority of the money will come from a $74 million dollar fund from the Biden Administration with Michigan Technological University and Eagle Mine receiving $8.1 million. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency (DOE APRA-E) grant program also awarded an additional $2.5 million.
What is studied: Based on the funding, the $8.1 million will be used to prove new research technology for sustainable mining practices when supplying minerals for battery manufacturing. This can include how to obtain, transport, store and dispose of minerals at different stages of the manufacturing process. While learning sustainable practices, this information can help prevent or reduce environmental harm, safety and cost-reduction practices for businesses taking on electrical vehicle batteries. The other $2.5 million is set for Michigan Tech to study carbon dioxide from Eagle Mine’s tailings facility in the hopes of using carbon dioxide byproducts to produce a new product or reaction.
What they're saying: “The State of Michigan is the home to the automotive industry, nickel mining industry, and future lithium-ion battery industry in this nation,” said Dr. Lei Pan, associate professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech and principal investigator (PI) of both funded projects. “Addressing both the supply of critical minerals and reprocessing and reuse of mine tailings is critical to advance sustainability in the mining industry.”
Boosting outside the campus: Michigan Tech will benefit from the influx of specialized money, but so will the rest of the Upper Peninsula. The funding will be enough to take the learning in the lab into a pilot-scale facility that will be built for private enterprise.
“This robust investment will support Michigan Tech’s researchers, faculty, and students’ continued efforts to develop and deploy the next generation of technologies to recycle electric vehicle batteries that will guide the future of the auto industry in Michigan and nationwide,” said Rick Koubek, president of Michigan Technological University. “We thank our industry partners and Eagle Mine for supporting this research that will lead to new critical mineral technologies.”
Local minerals at stake: Nickel, a chemical element known as a transition metal, is only mined in the Upper Peninsula at the Eagle Mine. The local mineral deposits are not just the only major mine in the region, but in North America, as there are no nickel mines in Mexico and the Sudbury, Ontario, Canada mines are believed to be from meteoric origin instead of naturally forming deposits. Any efforts to produce vehicle batteries with 100 percent domestic efforts must be completed through mining at Eagle Mine or through recycling and reuse.
“Eagle Mine is the only nickel mine in the United States, and the availability of our experience and use of our resources, waste streams, and nickel concentrates are essential to understanding the societal impact of the nation’s transportation needs,” said Darby Stacey, managing director of Eagle Mine.
Enjoy this story? Sign up
for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.