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DOE to award $4M to 9 projects to recover rare earth elements from coal and by-products

The Department of Energy (DOE) has selected nine projects to receive approximately $4 million in cost-shared federal funding to improve the technical, environmental, and economic performance of new and existing technologies that extract, separate, and recover rare earth elements (REEs) from domestic US coal and coal by-products. (Earlier post.)

US coal resources contain quantities of REEs that offer the potential to reduce dependence on others for these critical materials.

Selected projects fall under three Areas of Interest.

Area of Interest 1—Advanced, Novel Technology Development for Initial REE Extraction, Concentrating to ≥ 2 Weight Percent
Organization Description Funding
The Ohio State University Concentrating Rare Earth Elements in Acid Mine Drainage using Coal Combustion By-Products
The Ohio State University will collaborate with state agencies to carry out field investigation aimed to screen and evaluate the seasonal changes of rare earths for acid mine drainage discharges that have high recovery potential. The team will ultimately concentrate the rare earths using a highly selective sequential extraction procedure.
DOE Funding: $399,967
Non-DOE Funding: $145,985
Total Funding: $545,952
Research Triangle Institute Low-Cost Rare Earth Element (REE) Recovery from Acid Mine Drainage Sludge
Research Triangle Institute plans to use a staged, membrane-based treatment approach to separate, concentrate, and ultimately recover REEs from acid mine drainage (AMD) sludge that will take place over an 18-month performance period.
DOE Funding: $400,000
Non-DOE Funding: $100,000
Total Funding: $500,000
University of Kentucky Research Foundation Low-Temperature Plasma Treatment for Enhanced Recovery of Highly Valued Critical REEs from Coal
University of Kentucky Research Foundation will evaluate the mineralogy, leachability and the effect of plasma pretreatment for the various segments of selected feed stocks containing greater than 300 ppm of total REEs on a dry, whole mass basis.
DOE Funding: $322,352
Non-DOE Funding: $82,617
Total Funding: $404,969
The University of North Dakota Economic Extraction and Recovery of REEs and Production of Clean Value-Added Products from Low-Rank Coal Fly Ash
The University of North Dakota will collect ash samples and perform characterizations that will be used to inform the development of extraction and concentration approaches. The project will also evaluate a novel method of value-added beneficiation of the clean fly ash.
DOE Funding: $400,000
Non-DOE Funding: $108,812
Total Funding: $508,812
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 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
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will investigate ion-exchange leaching and concentration technologies that can extract and enrich the REEs derived from coal resources, specifically clay and shale.
DOE Funding: $400,000
Non-DOE Funding: $100,000
Total Funding: $500,000


Area of Interest 2—Optimization of Current State-of-the-Art Separation Technologies for Initial REE Extraction, Concentrating to ≥ 2‒10 Weight Percent
Lead organization Description Funding
The University of Utah Economic Extraction, Recovery, and Upgrading of Rare Earth Elements from Coal-Based Resources
The University of Utah will demonstrate and improve methods to economically extract, recover, and upgrade the REE contents from coal-based resources using integrated modeling, coal preparation, bio-oxidation, solution conditioning, heap leaching, solvent extraction, and precipitation technologies to cleanly and cost-effectively produce rare earth-bearing products with more than 8 weight percent REE.
DOE Funding: $399,200
Non-DOE Funding: $99,800
Total Funding: $499,000
Wayne State University Coupled Hydrothermal Extraction and Ligand-Associated Organosilica Media Recovery of REEs from Coal Fly Ash
Wayne State University will examine the potential to couple hydrothermal leaching of coal fly ash with engineering a custom ligand-associated media to provide an organic solvent-free method of extracting and recovering REEs to be extracted to an acidic aqueous system that will have high concentrations of the targeted REEs (2-10 weight percent).
DOE Funding: $430,922; Non-DOE Funding: $112,857
Total Funding: $543,779


Area of Interest 3—Technology Advancements for High Purity REE Extractions, Concentrating to 90.0–99.99 Weight Percent
Lead organization Description Funding
Battelle Memorial Institute Recovery of High Purity Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from Coal Ash via a Novel Electrowinning Process
Battelle Memorial Institute will advance development of REE processing company Rare Earth Salts’ novel electrowinning separation and purification process and Battelle’s Acid Digestion Process, and validate that they can generate environmentally benign and economically sustainable REE products from domestic coal ash sources at purities above 90 percent.
DOE Funding: $674,940
Non-DOE Funding: $200,000
Total Funding: $874,940
West Virginia University Research Corporation At-source Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Mine Drainage
West Virginia University Research Corporation will develop a process to extract an enriched, mixed REE product from Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) at the production site, upstream of conventional AMD treatment. The project will demonstrate that improvements in REE extraction efficiency can be obtained through separation of REEs from aqueous phase AMD, upstream of conventional AMD treatment.
DOE Funding: $644,060;
Non-DOE Funding: $220,198
Total Funding: $864,258

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