Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Mine Drainage Email Page
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Performer: West Virginia University Research Corporation
Schematic of an AMD treatment system and the proposed positioning of the Process Recovery Development Unit (PDU)
Schematic of an AMD treatment system and the proposed positioning of the Process Recovery Development Unit (PDU)
Website: West Virginia University
Award Number: FE0026927
Project Duration: 03/01/2016 – 06/30/2019
Total Award Value: $4,339,414
DOE Share: $3,411,874
Performer Share: $927,540
Technology Area: Rare Earth Recovery
Key Technology: Separation Technologies
Location: Morgantown, West Virginia

Project Description

This project by West Virginia University (WVU) and its partners will develop a cost-effective and environmentally benign process to treat and recover rare earth elements (REEs) from sludges generated during treatment of acid mine drainage (AMD) from coal mines. This project will take advantage of autogenous processes that occur in coal mines and associated tailings which liberate then concentrate REEs.  Studies have shown elevated concentrations of REEs in low-pH effluent to AMD treatment systems that were nearly absent in the discharge water. This indicates that REEs precipitate with more plentiful transition metals in the AMD sludge, most likely as hydroxides. AMD sludge REE extraction will initially consist of acid dissolution followed by two complementary refining options: selective electro-coagulation and solvent extraction/stripping. Both options will be evaluated for efficiency, concentration, waste stream liabilities, and cost.

Project Benefits

The benefits of this project include utilizing AMD sludge as a domestic source of REE in concentrations and volumes sufficient to alleviate our industry’s reliance on foreign supply. Estimates based on the volume of AMD generated in Pennsylvania and West Virginia suggest that their AMD sludges represent about 45,000 tons per year of REEs, representing about 25% of global REE demand. The WVU REE prediction model will look to determine the REE production at a given site as a function of concentration and discharge volume. The resulting load calculation will determine the mass of REEs produced annually at a given site.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager Jessica Mullen:
Technology Manager Mary Anne Alvin:
Principal Investigator Paul Ziemkiewicz:


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