The three Rs

We’ve all heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” and, if you’re of a certain age range, the idea was a solid theme in your grade school education as the concerns over our environment became an unprecedented hot-button issue. During that time, we learned ways to do everyday things in a more green and environmentally responsible way with reusable bags, saving energy, reducing our ozone depletion habits (I’m looking at you, spray paint and Aqua Net hairspray) and a number of other things.

You know – some of those things the new-gen set like to call “life hacks.”

Those outside the mining community may think differently, but mining’s been following that theme of environmental responsibility for a long time. It’s just that we’ve become more transparent in the last several years, and our pride over projects like post-use reclamation, rehabilitation and even byproduct reuse has increased.

It will not be a surprise, then, and especially given the climate conversation of today, that the Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a period of input for a new planned US$500 million program that will install clean energy projects on the sites of current or former mine lands across the U.S.

With the backing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the program will be operated through the DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations.

The Clean Energy Demonstrations on Current and Former Mine Land Program will fund clean energy projects such as geothermal energy on mine land “to benefit communities and their economies, create good-paying jobs and reduce carbon pollution.”

While it feels a bit like the DOE is forcing everyone’s hand on a brand-new idea, we all know it is not. I can, however, get behind the agency’s desire to bring higher paying jobs to such projects – many to replace the ones that disappeared when many mine sites were closed or mined out. 

The ultimate goal, DOE said, is to transform mine land for the deployment of “cheaper, cleaner power, which will also provide federal investment to revitalize hard-hit energy communities.” That’s where the DOE loses me. The mining industry, while hard-hit in areas from past politics and other factors, is making great strides in the area of transforming cleaner power. Clean coal, for example, is not a new phrase and there are many efforts that can and will be long-term industry disruptors, in my opinion.

The program will demonstrate land conversion to clean energy projects with a goal of replication across the country with projects that have one or more (as it defines them) “clean energy” technologies: solar; microgrids; geothermal energy; direct air capture; fossil-fueled generation with carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration; energy storage, including pumped-storage hydropower and compressed air; and advanced nuclear.

I say we get behind that, even if, in truth, we’ve been behind the idea of a better, cleaner future all along. 

Donna Schmidt
Editor, North American Mining magazine
[email protected]
(740) 624-4642
Twitter: @Dschmidt_NAM

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