Pilot-Scale Testing of an Integrated Circuit for the Extraction of Rare Earth Minerals and Elements from Coal and Coal By- Products Using Advanced Separation Technologies

Technology Partner: University of KentuckyAward Number: FE0027035
Project Duration: 3/1/2016 – 3/31/2020Total Project Value: $8,820,009

Key Technology Area: Process Systems

Project Partners: Alliance Resources, Blackhawk Mining, Minerals Refining Company, Mineral Separation Technologies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and West Virginia University

In Phase 1 of this project, the University of Kentucky (UK) identified two bituminous coal-related feedstocks qualified as having ample supply with high rare earth element (REE) content (above 300 parts per million) and developed a preliminary design for a mobile pilot plant to recover REEs from those feedstocks. In laboratory experiments, UK achieved greater than 80 percent concentration of rare earths in the mixed rare earth concentrate while recovering greater than 75 percent of the rare earths from the incoming feedstock. In Phase 2, the University will develop and test a one- fourth ton/hour pilot-scale plant for the extraction of REEs from Central Appalachian and Illinois Basin

bituminous coal preparation plant refuse materials. The system integrates both physical and chemical (ion exchange and solvent extraction) separation processes that are commercially available and environmentally acceptable. The innovative enabling technology utilized in the system includes an advanced froth flotation process and a novel hydrophobic-hydrophilic separation process. The project is expected to develop critical technology, conditions and data necessary to design, construct and operate a state-of-the-art processing facility for the production of REEs from various coal and coal by-product streams.


Schematic of the University of Kentucky’s process.


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