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DOE to award nearly $4M for projects on recovering rare earth elements from coal and coal by-products

The US Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will award an estimated $3.95 million (DE-FOA-0001718) to projects to develop new technologies or technology advancements that result in improvements in technical, environmental, and economic performance of existing technologies to recover rare earth elements (REE) from domestic US coal and coal by-products.

NETL has previously awarded REE projects that are focused on recovering > 2 wt% T-REEe (total rare earth elements on an elemental [non-oxide] basis) production from coal and coal by-products, as well as service contracts to external entities to identify and characterize pre-combustion coal and coal-related materials in various regions of the US.

Additionally, NETL has recently solicited applications to achieve small-scale production of salable REEs in the form of final products such as individual high purity rare earth oxides and/or other individual rare earth compounds from domestic US sources of pre-combustion coal and coal by-products.

The new funding opportunity announcement outlines three areas of interest (AOI):

  1. To develop advanced, new/novel, Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 2-4 separation and extraction technologies and processes using domestic US coal and related coal-resources as feedstock materials.

  2. To advance existing technologies, such as grinding, sieving, froth floatation, magnetic separation, etc. Both AOI 1 and AOI 2 projects will be focused on utilizing coal-based resources to separate and extract contained REEs to > 2 wt% (AOI 1) and 2-10 wt% (AOI 2) in resulting pre-concentrate matrices.

  3. Research efforts to focus on development of advanced new/novel (TRL up to 4) technologies and/or advancement(s) to existing REE separation and extraction technologies, to generate high purity (90.0-99.99wt%), salable REEs.



This is a back room deal, using tax money, under DOE head,Rick Perry, Mr. Fossil Fuel Guy, to mine more coal. You must realize that Rare Earth is a name given to a group of minerals that are really not all that rare. In fact they are quite abundant and found everywhere.


But there are few rare-earth deposits in the USA which are economic to refine.  China has no such cost issues because it allows the country to be an open waste dump.

Coal ash is already a waste product, so that may affect the economics.  There's a lot of it out there and pulling REEs from it probably won't change demand.  But one of the kickers is the uranium and thorium which are often found in coal ash (and with REEs).  Recovering uranium could add a substantial amount of domestic fuel supply for nuclear reactors, and ditto the thorium if the NRC ever certifies a fuel using it.


That's great.
But they can start with "mining" the megatons of existing coal ash first.
When that is done within a few decades, we can have a next look


This is probably worth your while to look at:



I posted a link to a slide presentation on REEs in coal ash, and the comment disappeared.  How gauche.


Rare earth elements are not rare they are diffused. They are available from mining other elements but need to be refined. That is where China leads, it is not wildly profitable.

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