In northeastern Utah, coal has long been a valuable resource and economic force. Now, University of Utah experts are looking at other uses for it and other significant mineral deposits around the Uinta Basin.
They want to locate and convert raw materials into materials that can be utilized in renewable and electronics energy. They’re investigating the coal resources and other non-fuel elements, according to Lauren Birgenheier, who serves as an associate professor in U’s Geology and Geophysics Department.
“Socially, we’re sort of transitioning from an age when we are burning a lot of the fossil fuels to maybe this new age of energy consumption that’s a minimal fossil fuel-intensive,” stated Birgenheier, who is in charge of the project’s geology. “One of the prospects in the Utah coals is that they may contain other vital resources for our energy transition.”
A grant from the US Department of Energy is helping to fund the $1.5 million renovation. It’s part of a nationwide initiative to generate crucial materials in power and coal plant communities, reducing the country’s reliance on rare earth elements imported from abroad.
In a press statement about the funds, Senator Mitt Romney, R-UT, said, “China’s near-monopoly on rare earth metals renders the rest of the planet depends on them.” “With this financing, Utah will seek to play an important role in the development of the rare earth metals and essential minerals in the United States, which will try to rebuild the supply chain and reduce our reliance on China.”
Although the initiative is still in its early stages — researchers are currently focusing on the concentrations of resources in the region — project head Michael Free believes it has the potential to revolutionize sectors of the state’s economy. “[The project] could provide Utah with a little bit greater diversity in terms of what we have to offer in terms of the production and manufacturing sector,” said Free, a U professor. “We could also make a range of things that would be sold out of state.” He expressed his hope that the Biden administration will fund the project as it moves on with the development of the resources.
The University of Utah is controlled by a ten-member Board of Trustees, eight of whom are nominated by the Governor of Utah with Senate approval. The 9th member is the President of the University of Utah Alumni Association, while the 10th member is the serving President in charge of Associated Students of University of Utah (ASUU). The eight members are selected for four-year periods, with four of them ending on June 30 of every odd-numbered year. The 2 ex officio members hold their positions for the duration of their respective tenure.