An acid baking approach to enhance heavy rare earth recovery from bituminous coal-based sources

Ahmad Nawab, Xinbo Yang, Rick Honaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from secondary resources, particularly coal-based materials, has recently received attention due to supply and demand imbalance. Research reported to date indicates that a high REE recovery can be realized when treating bituminous coal sources using strong acid solutions of approximately100 g/L or higher. This study introduces an approach to enhance the total rare earth recovery (TREE), especially for heavy rare earth elements (HREEs), from these coal sources at significantly lower acid concentrations. Based on the presence of REE minerals like monazite and xenotime, a detailed investigation was undertaken to quantify three pre-leach treatment methods, i.e., 1) roasting, 2) direct acid baking, and 3) acid baking after roasting. Roasting tests at 600 °C revealed that the recovery of light REEs (LREEs) was enhanced while the recovery of HREEs remained relatively unaffected. LREE and HREE recovery values of 38.3% and 21.3%, respectively, were achieved using a 50 g/L (0.5 M) sulfuric acid solution at 5% solid concentration and a solution temperature of 75 °C for 2 h. Comparatively, direct acid baking at 250 °C provided substantial increases in LREE and HREE recovery values to approximately 49.4% and 53.0%, respectively, using an equivalent acid dosage. Recoveries were maximized to 77.0% and 79.6% for LREE and HREE, respectively, by roasting followed by acid baking. Similar results were obtained from the treatment of a second bituminous coal source. Due to strong correlations between REE and Al recovery values, tests were performed on kaolinite and illite, which were prominent clay minerals within the source coals. These experiments revealed that the REE recovery improvements were likely a result of dehydroxylation of clays and subsequent release and decomposition of REE-bearing minerals such as monazite, xenotime and zircon.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107610
JournalMinerals Engineering
StatePublished - Jun 30 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Acid baking
  • Coal
  • Leaching
  • Rare earth elements
  • Roasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • General Chemistry
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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