Lithium leaching recovery and mechanisms from density fractions of an Illinois Basin bituminous coal

Wencai Zhang, Aaron Noble, Xinbo Yang, Rick Honaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Lithium recovery from the density fractions of Baker (namely West Kentucky No. 13) seam coal was investigated in this study. Proximate and elemental analyses showed that lithium contents in the 1.8–2.2 SG and 2.2 SG sink fractions were 185 ppm and 150 ppm, respectively, which are significantly higher than the average content of coal sources (12 ppm) and coal ashes (66 ppm) worldwide. Moreover, due to the high lithium contents and mass distribution, nearly 90% of the lithium present in the Baker coal sample was distributed in the two density fractions. Direct leaching using a HCl solution resulted in less than 10% lithium recovery, which was due to nearly 90% of the lithium being associated with insoluble solids as determined by the results from sequential extraction tests. Calcination of both density fractions under 600 °C for two hours followed by leaching resulted in recovery increases in the range of 70% to 80%. The pyro-metallurgical pretreatment step converted most of the associated lithium minerals to more easy-to-leach forms such as carbonate and metal oxide. Based on mineralogy characterization and leaching test results, it was concluded that the positive effects of calcination on lithium leachability resulted from the dehydration and disintegration of kaolinite as well as dehydroxylation and expansion of muscovite/illite. An analysis of the leaching kinetics revealed that the leaching rate of lithium was controlled by interface transfer and diffusion across the product layer and was negatively impacted when the calcination temperature exceeded 600 °C due to sintering of the kaolinite.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117319
StatePublished - May 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Acid leaching
  • Calcination
  • Coal
  • Kinetic analysis
  • Lithium
  • Sequential chemical extraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Organic Chemistry


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