Low-Cost Rare-Earth-Element (REE) Recovery from Acid Mine Drainage Sludge

Technology Partner: Research Triangle InstituteAward Number: FE0031483
Project Duration: 11/20/2017 – 5/19/2019Total Project Value: $500,000

Key Technology Area: Separation Technologies
Project Partners: Cerahelix and Veolia Water Technologies

This project aims to develop a membrane-based, bench- scale system to extract strategic minerals such as rare earth elements (REEs) and other critical minerals from acid mine drainage (AMD) sludge generated as part of coal mining activities in the United States. The effort will use a staged, membrane-based treatment approach to separate, concentrate, and ultimately recover REEs from AMD. Initial work will take water samples from a potential AMD site(s) and characterize them for REE concentration, dissolved metals concentration, and key water-quality characteristics. Each individual process component will be tested with water samples to optimize performance. The work will initially involve proof-of-concept experiments at the bench scale with the aim of varying process parameters such as water chemistry, nanofiltration membrane performance in

monovalent/ multivalent separation, affinity media chemistry, and solvent recovery of REE. From these experiments, separation conditions that can be reasonably transitioned to flow-through systems and larger prototype scales for further techno-economic analysis will be selected so that the economic performance of a continuously fed AMD fluid process for REE recovery can be evaluated. The process has the potential to expand and increase security of our Nation’s sources for strategic elements by exploiting a domestic resource such as AMD sludge and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign countries for these critical elements. The process would enable energy-efficient, cost-effective recovery of REEs to a two weight percent REE pre-concentrate. The steps comprising the process are inherently low-cost approaches.


Cerahelix ceramic tubular membranes for monovalent/multivalent separation.


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