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Critical Materials Funding Opportunity: Innovation, Efficiency, and Alternatives

The Department of Energy announced $150 million in funding for research and pilot manufacturing of critical minerals. The focus of this funding round is on innovation, increasing efficiency, and developing alternatives that reduce U.S. need for critical minerals. We summarized the announcement to help you assess the opportunity for your organization.

Tailings ponds containing mining waste in Utah
Photo Credit: IOFOTO via Canva

Critical Materials Funding Opportunity: Overview

The Department of Energy (DOE) released a $150 million funding tranche on September 6, 2023, in support of improving critical minerals innovation, efficiency and alternatives. These cost-share grants are funded by the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The awards are being administered by the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM).


DOE is seeking applications to produce critical minerals and materials (CMM) from domestic resources. Priority will be given to CMMs identified in either the USGS Critical Minerals List or the DOE Critical Materials Assessment, or to alternatives to CMMs identified on those lists. The objective of the funding announcement is to competitively select and award applied bench scale R&D and pilot scale projects. Bench scale projects should run from technical readiness level (TRL) 0-4. The pilot scale projects progress through TRL 6.


This critical materials funding opportunity is about finding new, environmentally responsible ways to extract, separate, process, refine, and recycle CMMs. The effort also places a strong emphasis on creating good jobs, strengthening supply chains, and propelling the U.S. as a leader in production of CMMs.

Key Dates

  • Deadline: November 10, 5pm ET

  • Expected notification: May 2024

  • Award negotiations: May-September 2024


Eligibility

Eligible entities are domestic industry, academic institutions, national laboratories, and others who produce CMMs or alternatives. Partnerships of multiple entities are encouraged. Domestic entities are those that are “organized, chartered, or incorporated (or otherwise formed) under the laws of a particular state or territory of the United States; have majority domestic ownership and control; and have a physical place of business in the United States.”


Award Categories and Funding Distribution


Area of Interest 1: CMM Supply Chain

PHASE 1

Bench scale facility

Up to 10 awards


Total available: $20M

Size range: $500k-$3M


Cost share: 20%

​Timeframe:

12-24 months

PHASE 2

​Pilot scale facility and construction

Up to 4 awards


Total available: $50M

​Size range: $10-30M


Cost share: 50%

​Timeframe:

18-36 months

This category is designed to support organizations as they develop ways to produce CMMs from waste streams, impoundments, and conventional ore.


Feedstocks of interest: Alumina (red mud) tailings, black mass (recycled batteries), CMM containing ore, e-waste, geothermal, hardrock acid mine drainage (AMD), manufacturing scrap, mining tailings, placer sand waste from mineral sands, phosphor mining waste, produced waters, manufacturing scrap.


Products of interest: Separated and/or rare earth elements (REE), graphite, lithium, cobalt, nickel, gallium, high purity CMMs needed in semiconductors and microchips (feed for CHIPS and Science Act projects).


Area of Interest 2: Value Added Products

PHASE 1

Bench scale facility

Up to 5 awards


Total available: $10M

Size range: $500k-$2M

Cost share: 20%

​Timeframe:

12-24 months

PHASE 2

​Pilot scale facility and construction

Up to 2 awards


Total available: $20M

​Size range: $5-10M


Cost share: 50%

​Timeframe:

18-36 months

This category is designed to support organizations as they develop co-production of value added products in ore or materials that have low concentrations of CMM in order to increase commercial viability of processing the materials.


Possible products could include: High value alloys, high value co-products, graphite, building/infrastructure materials, platinum group metals (PGM), minor metals production.


Area of Interest 3: Next Generation Technologies

PHASE 1

Bench scale facility

Up to 5 awards


Total available: $10M

Size range: $500k-$2M


Cost share: 20%

​Timeframe:

12-24 months

This category enables bench scale development of novel, next generation technologies based on fundamental science discoveries that can be utilized in the production of critical materials. Its focus is optimization of the process (cost, emissions, resource intensity) of extracting, refining, alloying, etc., CMMs.


This category is dedicated to TRL 0-4 and excludes marginal improvements to existing technologies.


Area of Interest 4: Alternative Materials

PHASE 1

Bench scale facility

Up to 10 awards


Total available: $10M

Size range: $500k-$1M


Cost share: 20%

​Timeframe:

12-24 months

PHASE 2

​Pilot scale facility and construction

Up to 2 awards


Total available: $20M

​​​Size range: $5-10M

Cost share: 50%

​Timeframe:

18-36 months

This category is for development of CMM alternatives or substitutes to reduce reliance on foreign supply chains. Alternatives of particular interest lessen the need for critical materials and/or use materials available in abundance in the U.S. and not subject to potential supply restrictions.


Note: Development of alternatives for magnets and batteries is explicitly excluded from Phase 1. All technologies are eligible for Phase 2.


Area of Interest 5: Alternative Products

PHASE 1

Bench scale facility

Up to 10 awards


Total available: $10M

Size range: $500k-$1M


Cost share: 20%

​Timeframe:

12-24 months

This phase’s focus is the development of alternative energy technologies or improved designs of existing energy technologies. This could include development of the next battery technology or improvements to current battery recycling capabilities or other energy technologies. Alternatives of particular interest lessen the need for critical materials and/or use materials available in abundance in the U.S. and not subject to potential supply restrictions.


This phase targets TRL or technology gaps not currently addressed by other BIL or Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding streams. DOE expects projects in this phase will be bench scale (TRL 0-4) but is open to projects targeting pilot scale.


Award Scoring Criteria

  • Technical merit, innovation and impact 50%

  • Team and resources 10%

  • Project demonstration and market transformation plan 20%

  • Community benefits plan 20%

Additional Considerations


Cost Share

Cost share is required according to the minimum proportions laid out above. The prime contractor holds legal responsibility for the cost share, but it can be divided among partners however they like.


Partnership Agreement Type

A cooperative research agreement (CRADA) is the preferred agreement for this funding opportunity. CRADAs have specific intellectual property (IP) considerations organizations should be aware of as they structure their projects. It is possible to use Other Transaction Authority (OTA), which gives more IP flexibility, when that is determined to be in the best interest of DOE. OTA must be explicitly requested in the application.


Community Benefit Plans

Each application must include a community benefit plan (CBP), which accounts for 20% of the award scoring criteria. CBPs are slightly different for bench scale and pilot scale projects. They must be project-specific and include at least one clear goal per budget period. CBPs have four main goals:

  • Community and labor engagement

  • Investing in job quality and workforce continuity

  • Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA)

  • Contributing to the Justice40 initiative

Environmental, Sourcing, and Labor Requirements

Project work must take place in the U.S. and projects are subject to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Build America Buy America and Davis-Bacon requirements when applicable. Participation by foreign entities or foreign workers requires a waiver.


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