Liberation and release of rare earth minerals from Middle Kittanning, Fire Clay, and West Kentucky No. 13 coal sources

Qingqing Huang, Aaron Noble, John Herbst, Rick Honaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


A laboratory REE release test procedure was designed to better understand the association and liberation characteristics of rare earth elements (REEs) from coal-based material, such as coal middlings and refuse. For this particular study, three samples of mixed-phase, middling material was collected from three coal preparation plants operating in three different coal basins and coal seams, namely Fire Clay, Middle Kittanning, and West Kentucky #13. In these release tests, the mixed-phase material was first ground in a laboratory ball mill for a designated amount of time and subsequently decarbonized using staged flotation. The REE content of the high ash tailings and low ash concentrate was determined, and the process was repeated for various target grind sizes down to the micron range. The results indicate that smaller grind sizes produce increased REE concentrations in the high ash tailings, and this result is predominantly driven by the increased ash content in the decarbonized tailings. The grinding characteristics of the Fire Clay coal source showed that more energy is needed to achieve the desired particle size reduction; however further size reduction of this sample resulted in a significantly higher ash and REE content in the tailings material due to improved liberation. For the Middle Kittanning and West Kentucky #13 sources, the grinding and release data indicates that the mineral matter is liberated at a coarser particle size, and micronizing the coals only produces marginal improvements in rare earth mineral liberation and recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-252
Number of pages11
JournalPowder Technology
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Association
  • Coal
  • Flotation
  • Grindability
  • Liberation
  • Rare earth elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering


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