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New effort to increase coal production announced

Blacksburg, Va.--In three months, Virginia Tech researchers in the mining and minerals engineering department have received two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awards to enhance mineral and coal production techniques, create higher value products, lower energy costs, and improve environmental sustainability of the mining industry.

These initiatives come as the country faces its worse energy crisis since the 1970s.

The DOE has just announced a $3 million award to Virginia Tech and to West Virginia University to establish a Center for Advanced Separation Technologies (CAST).

This award follows on the heels of another DOE award to Virginia Tech to demonstrate the commercial potential of new coal production techniques developed by university researchers.

Virginia Techs partnership with West Virginia University to create CAST is based on both universities sustaining long histories of strong research and teaching programs in mining and minerals engineering.

CAST researchers, concerned about the United States' reliance on imported energy sources, believe they can help the mining industry increase the production of coal and improve the efficiency of producing minerals in an environmentally acceptable manner by developing advanced separation technologies.

These technologies can be used to separate ash and sulfur dioxide-forming minerals from coal. They can also be used to remove impurities from mineral concentrates.

Various separation processes are currently used in the mining industry, but they need improvement, particularly for processing fine particles. For example, the industry currently discards more than 40 percent of coal fines, 30 percent of Floridas phosphate, 20 percent of the worlds tungsten, and 10 percent of Minnesotas iron oxide.

Roe-Hoan Yoon, Virginia Tech professor of mining and minerals engineering and director of CAST, says it "is important to reduce the costs of producing fuels in the U.S." In 1999, the U.S. imported $67.7 billi
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Contact: Roe-Hoan Yoon
ryoon@vt.edu
540-231-7056
Virginia Tech
12-Jun-2001


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