Development of a Cost-Effective Extraction Process for the Recovery of Heavy and Critical Rare Earth Elements from the Clays and Shales Associated with Coal

Technology Partner: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityAward Number: FE0031523
Project Duration: 11/16/2017 – 5/15/2019
Total Project Value: $500,000

Key Technology Area: Separation Technologies

The project will investigate ion-exchange leaching and concentration technologies that can extract and enrich the rare earth elements (REEs) derived from coal resources, specifically clay and shale. Work conducted under this project will include field sample collection, thermodynamic assessments, routine laboratory testing, and engineering analyses. Initial efforts will focus on identifying, collecting, and characterizing at least three distinct feedstock samples that approach or exceed 300 parts per million total REE on a whole sample basis. Next, experimental efforts will focus on two distinct process operations, including (1) ion- exchange leaching and (2) ion/precipitate flotation. A limited number of solvent extraction tests will be performed for comparative purposes only. These experimental efforts will be supported by ongoing

thermodynamic assessments, which will provide a fundamental basis for selection and dosing requirements of lixiviant (liquid used for leaching a metal from its ore or mineral). During the final tasks, the results from the experimental program will be used to generate a preliminary system design, and cost/revenue modeling will be used to perform a rigorous techno-economic assessment. The result of this project is intended to be a low-cost, environmentally benign process that can be readily implemented at many of the domestic coal production facilities throughout the coal fields. Successful development of the technology may provide a pathway to commercial extraction of the ion-adsorbed REE reserve in U.S. coal.

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