Calcination pretreatment effects on acid leaching characteristics of rare earth elements from middlings and coarse refuse material associated with a bituminous coal source

Wencai Zhang, Rick Honaker

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52 Scopus citations


The pretreatment of middlings and coarse refuse material collected from a Pocahontas No.3 coal source using calcination was investigated for the potential of improving the leaching recovery of rare earth elements. Calcination at 600 °C significantly and preferentially improved light REE (LREE) recovery to values in the range of 80–90% using 1.2 M HCl. The positive effect was due to the increased pore diameter and volume as well as thermal decomposition of the minerals associated with the LREEs. Heavy REE recovery was not increased after calcination at 600 °C due to the need for higher temperatures to achieve thermal decomposition of HREE minerals. Furthermore, some HREEs were also associated with sulfide minerals (e.g., pyrite) which were transformed into low-solubility oxides (e.g., hematite) after roasting at 600 °C. Based on the leaching characteristics of the major elements (Fe, Al, Ca and Mg) and REEs along with SEM-EDX data, it was concluded that REEs in the two samples mainly occurred as phosphate minerals. In the middlings, some of the minerals were completely encapsulated by kaolinite, which was less apparent in the coarse refuse. In addition, it was found that a portion of the REEs (10–25%) in the samples were associated with the organic matter and micro-dispersed minerals in the organic matrix, was released after calcination and easily recovered using 0.1 M (NH4)2SO4 solution at pH 5. Scandium primarily occurred in mineral forms with minimum amounts associated with ion-adsorbed clays and organic association.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-145
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material presented in this publication is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under Award Number DE-FE0029956 through a contract with Marshall Miller & Associates. Disclaimer: This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Calcination
  • Coal
  • Leaching recovery
  • Mineralogy
  • Rare earth elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (all)
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Organic Chemistry


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