A Field Survey of Rare Earth Element Concentrations in Process Streams Produced by Coal Preparation Plants in the Eastern USA

Gerald H. Luttrell, Michael J. Kiser, Roe Hoan Yoon, Aaron Noble, Mohammad Rezaee, Abhijit Bhagavatula, Rick Q. Honaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A field study was undertaken to experimentally measure the concentrations of rare earth elements (REEs) contained in the process streams generated by a group of 20 coal preparation plants located in the eastern USA. For each site, representative samples of clean coal product, coarse refuse, and fine refuse were collected. Each sample was then partitioned into preselected size and density classes by wet screening/sieving and float-sink testing. The resultant products were dried and subjected to laboratory analyses to determine ash contents and rare earth element concentrations including Yttrium and Scandium. A detailed analysis of the database generated by this exercise showed that coal-based products from these preparation plants contained significant quantities of rare earth elements. In particular, the coarse refuse streams currently discarded by the 20 plants examined were found to contain a sufficient tonnage of REEs to satisfy the current domestic demand for these important elements. The data also showed a strong positive correlation between ash content and REE concentration, which suggested that the primary association of REEs in eastern USA bituminous coal sources is likely within fractions containing inorganic impurities. This association was well described using a simple power equation relating ash content and REE concentration. The ratio of heavy-to-light rare earth elements was discovered to be significantly higher in organically rich fractions of clean coal, suggesting that mineral impurities intimately associated with carbonaceous matter have elevated concentrations of heavy rare earth elements. A similar trend was observed for a grouping of rare earth elements (Y, Nd, Eu, Tb, and Dy) that are likely subject to near-term supply shortages. Finally, the database showed that a linear correlation existed between La for many REEs of interest, although there were several notable exceptions for some high-value REEs (Lu, Pr, and Tb).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMining, Metallurgy and Exploration
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

Fingerprint

Plant Preparations
Coal preparation
Rare earth elements
field survey
rare earth element
coal
Ashes
Coal
refuse
ash
Scandium
Impurities
scandium
Yttrium
yttrium
bituminous coal
Bituminous coal
sieving
Minerals
Screening

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Metals and Alloys

Cite this

Luttrell, Gerald H. ; Kiser, Michael J. ; Yoon, Roe Hoan ; Noble, Aaron ; Rezaee, Mohammad ; Bhagavatula, Abhijit ; Honaker, Rick Q. / A Field Survey of Rare Earth Element Concentrations in Process Streams Produced by Coal Preparation Plants in the Eastern USA. In: Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration. 2019.
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A Field Survey of Rare Earth Element Concentrations in Process Streams Produced by Coal Preparation Plants in the Eastern USA. / Luttrell, Gerald H.; Kiser, Michael J.; Yoon, Roe Hoan; Noble, Aaron; Rezaee, Mohammad; Bhagavatula, Abhijit; Honaker, Rick Q.

In: Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, 01.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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