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Concentrations of rare earth elements >300 ppm found in American coal basins
November 30, 2017
Source: ASM International
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, Pittsburgh, reports that its engineers have found high rare earth element concentrations in coal samples taken from the Illinois, Northern Appalachian, Central Appalachian, Rocky Mountain Coal Basins, and the Pennsylvania Anthracite region. These highly concentrated samples are greater than 300 ppm.
Concentrations of rare earths at 300 ppm are integral to the commercial viability of extracting REEs from coal and coal by-products, making NETL’s finding particularly significant in the effort to develop economical domestic supplies of these elements.
The discovery was made in partnership with West Virginia University (WVU), the University of Kentucky (UK), Tetra Tech, and the XLight Corporation. WVU explored acid mine drainage from bituminous coal mines in the Northern and Central Appalachian Coal Basins, while Tetra Tech looked at bituminous, subbituminous, and anthracite coal from the same basins. Meanwhile, UK analyzed western Kentucky bituminous coal in the Illinois Coal Basin, and XLight Corporation investigated coal-related materials in the Eastern Pennsylvania Anthracite Region.
These findings could encourage technology developers to recover REEs from these basins by helping them find high quality feedstocks—the raw materials needed for REE recovery processes. Higher REE concentrations in the feedstock will improve the prospect of producing higher-purity REE materials. A separate research initiative is focusing on DOE cost-shared research projects to design, develop, and test technology to actually recover REEs from coal-related materials in a variety of American coal basins.
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