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Mining company goes high-tech to dig more than coal in region

Firm mines more than coal

American Resources Corporation, which purchased Deane Mining and several other area coal companies from bankruptcy, is taking mining here in a new, high-tech direction.

The company will be mining metallurgical coal but it will also be mining rare-earth minerals, powering mines with solar energy, recycling old mining equipment, and producing graphene, a form of carbon that science is only now discovering how to use.

American Resources just reopened

Perry County Resources and plans to reopen mining complexes in Letcher and the surrounding area later this year. The company called its Perry County Resources complex “… a hub to focus on the processing of critical and rare earth minerals, in an environmentally positive process from coal-based sources.”

The company plans not only to mine the raw materials in Central Appalachia, but also process them at a plant built specifically for that purpose.

“ Through the Company’s environmental efforts, American Rare Earth has initially identified and ranked its first ten rare earth mineral beneficiation sites within the Company’s owned asset base with the goal of building out its collection protocols. The ten sites located in eastern Kentucky, within Pike, Letcher and Knott counties, have already been evaluated and are being engineered to recover and concentrate the REE’s. Additional sites are being evaluated in Floyd and Perry counties,” a statement from the company says.

“Upon analysis, it has been estimated that American Rare Earth’s initial site has the ability to produce rare earth oxides having a mix of approximately 20 percent Neodymium, Praseodymium and Dysprosium, in addition to healthy levels of Cobalt and Lithium, all important elements used in the production of permanent magnets, widely used in electric vehicles (EV’s) and other technologies. Furthermore, the sites in this region are unique in that, unlike most sites in the domestic market, they possess a low level of thorium and other radioactive elements that can be harmful to the environment and the process.”

Rare-earth minerals are in a group of elements containing 17 heavy metals used in electronics, glass, and magnets. The name “rare-earth” is misleading since the elements in the group are fairly common. The rare-earth element cerium, for example, is the 25th most common element in the world. The elements can be found in rock that is normally discarded as waste from coal mining.

The company also plans to develop and commercialize graphene technologies as part of a joint venture with Gerardine Botte, a Texas Tech University professor and the Whitacre Department Chair in Chemical Engineering.

Graphene, a pure form of carbon, is formed in sheets just one atom thick with a honeycomb structure. It is more than 100 times stronger than the strongest steel and is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. It has many applications, including ballistic armor, electronics, solar cells, biomedicine, batteries and aerospace coatings.

While it was first discovered nearly 60 years ago, scientists are only now discovering the uses for the material and how to process it.

American Resources was honored on the NASDAQ stock exchange floor last week by being tapped to ring the closing bell.

The company, which now owns Deane Mining, Perry County Resources, Quest Energy, McCoy and Elkhorn, Knott County Coal and other companies, will use its Deane Mining load out on KY 7 North as the processing, load out and logistics center for a metals recycling operation, but is also expected to return to mining.

The company’s wholly owned subsidiary, American Metals LLC, will collect equipment and structure from mines around the area, process it at the Deane site and ship it out for recycling. The company plans to use the existing facilities at Deane to ship out used metals for the arc furnace steel industry.

American Resources plans to open Deane Mining’s other four operating locations in the second half of this year, though three of the company’s permits were denied by the state last February. American Resources has operations in Perry, Knott, Letcher and Pike counties.

The company identifies itself as a supplier of raw materials to the infrastructure industry.

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