Effect of Calcination Atmosphere on the Acid Leaching Recovery of Rare Earth Elements in Coal-Byproducts

Tushar Gupta, Ahmad Nawab, Rick Honaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thermal treatment of coal byproducts has been shown to improve leaching characteristics of rare earth elements (REEs) in bituminous coal sources due to its influence on the associated minerals. This study investigated the impact of the calcination atmosphere on REE leaching behavior in different density fractions of Baker and Fire Clay seam coarse refuse sources using a thermogravimetric analyzer to create an oxidizing or reducing atmosphere at a desired temperature for 2 h. The effect on leaching characteristics was evaluated using 1.2 M sulfuric acid at 75°C for 5 h at 1% w/v solid concentration. Rare earth element (REE) recovery for the 2.2 specific gravity (SG) sink fraction improved by approximately 15 absolute percentage points at 1000°C relative to the 600°C calcined sample in an inert atmosphere and equilibrated within 10 min from the start of the test. Contrarily, thermal treatment at 1000°C under oxidizing atmosphere significantly reduced the REE recovery due to sintering of the clays, which limited access to the RE minerals for leaching. In general, thermal treatment of heavier fractions in both atmospheres significantly improved the light REE (LREE) recovery while the increase in heavy REE (HREE) recovery was relatively less. As common clay minerals in the coal sources, kaolinite and illite samples were tested under the same conditions and using a digital scanning calorimeter. The findings confirmed that the improvement observed in REE leaching through thermal treatment at 600°C was due to decarbonization for the lighter density fractions and dehydroxylation of clays.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Rare earth elements
  • calcination/thermal treatment
  • clays
  • decarbonization
  • dehydroxylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Economic Geology


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