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DOE backs REE recovery from coal waste

The US Department of Energy has granted up to US$1 million towards a Texas Mineral Resources (TMRC) project that aims to produce rare earth elements (REE) from Pennsylvania coal waste.

TMRC is partnering with Penn State University, Pennsylvania producer Jeddo Coal and engineering consultancy H22OS on plans to build a self-contained, modular and portable pilot plant at a Jeddo Coal site in Pennsylvania.

The plant would be capable of producing 1-3 tonnes of rare earth oxides derived from coal byproducts from Pennsylvania anthracite coal, said the consortium in a press release.

TMRC chairman Anthony Marchese said: “We believe that the technological strength and experience of our team goes a long way toward a positive result from this project.  This grant is a significant step forward toward creating the first of these operations in the Pennsylvania region.”

Marchese added that the potential to profitably produce scandium and other rare earth minerals from Pennsylvania anthracite coal byproducts “holds great promise”, and that it could help “create potentially meaningful economic opportunity for an industry and region, which for too long has been in a period of decline”.

The project will start in October 2020 with a three-month conceptual design phase, followed by a feasibility study.

Lee Kump, John Leone Dean in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, added: “We see great opportunity … to establish a domestic supply of rare earth and other critical elements while creating jobs and remediating associated environmental problems while producing strategically important materials for high-tech and defense applications.”

The statement noted that successful completion of the DOE grant is consistent with a commercial supply chain with final separation of the mixed REE concentrate into individual high purity rare earth oxides.

This process would be accomplished at a processing facility operated by USA Rare Earth, TMRC’s partner on the Round Top heavy rare earth critical minerals project in Texas, using CIX/CIC processing methodology.

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