Investigation of Rare Earth Element Extraction from North Dakota Coal-Related Feedstocks


REE recovery for two selected North Dakota lignite-related feed stocks.
REE recovery for two selected North Dakota lignite-related feed stocks.
University of North Dakota
Website:  University of North Dakota
Award Number:  FE0027006
Project Duration:  03/01/2016 – 03/31/2019
Total Award Value:  $4,309,347
DOE Share:  $3,343,847
Performer Share:  $965,500
Technology Area:  Rare Earth Recovery
Key Technology:  Separation Technologies
Location:  Grand Forks, North Dakota

Project Description

This Phase II project, led by the University of North Dakota Institute for Energy Studies, with technical partners Barr Engineering, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and MLJ Consulting, is investigating the feasibility of recovering rare earth elements (REEs) from North Dakota lignite and lignite-related feed stocks. Under the Phase I work, the team identified locations in North Dakota with coal-related feed stocks having exceptionally high rare earths content and developed a simple, highly effective, and low-cost method to concentrate the REEs in the lignite feed stocks using a novel technology that takes advantage of the unique properties of lignite. Under Phase II, the team will scale-up the technology and demonstrate it at a scale of 10-20 kg/hr feed stock throughput and evaluate the economics for a commercial-scale, rare-earths-concentrating facility in North Dakota. The project will also include development of a commercialization plan and market assessment. The Lignite Research Program of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, North American Coal Corporation, Great River Energy, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Great Northern Properties, the University of North Dakota, and the North Dakota University System are cost-sharing this project.

Project Benefits

The recovery of REEs from lignite and related materials has the potential to be a significant new industry that will both maintain existing jobs and create new jobs and revenue. New opportunities for marketable use of North Dakota lignite coal are required to maintain the existing mining/lignite use infrastructure in the state. Multiple high-value byproducts that will further enhance the lignite industry will also result from the process. The potential exists to significantly or completely offset current imported REE and REE product volumes by providing a reliable domestic resource and novel, low-cost technology focused on its development. The ultimate significance of this research is development of a high-performance, environmentally benign, and economically viable technology for REE production from an alternative resource that will limit dependence on foreign supplies and strengthen the economic and national security of the United States. This project will enable transition to pilot scale, and will be a foundation for subsequent larger demonstrations and eventual commercial deployment.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager 
Charles E. Miller:
Technology Manager 
Mary Anne Alvin:
Principal Investigator 
Steve Benson:

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