Removal of Iron from Pyrite-Rich Coal Refuse by Calcination and Magnetic Separation for Hydrometallurgical Extraction of Rare Earth Elements

Tushar Gupta, Ahmad Nawab, Rick Honaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In the metallurgical extraction of rare earth elements (REEs), the ratio of contaminant ions to REEs in the leachate dictates the cost and operational efficiency of the downstream processes. The current study investigated the potential iron contamination removal from the feed to the hydrometallurgical process by calcination followed by magnetic separation. The 2.20 specific gravity sink fraction of Baker coal seam coarse refuse was pulverized to finer than 180 μm, calcined at various temperatures, and separated into magnetic and non-magnetic fractions using a wet high-intensity magnetic separator at different field strengths. The untreated feed, calcined products, and their subsequent magnetic and non-magnetic fractions were subjected to acid leaching tests with 1.2 M sulfuric acid at 75 °C and 1% w/v solids concentration. The recovery of light and heavy rare earth elements (LREEs and HREEs, respectively) along with the concentration of common contaminant ions (Al, Ca, and Fe) were measured as output variables. The weight percent of magnetic material was maximized at approximately 29% by calcination at a temperature of 400 °C. Magnetic removal of this fraction using a field strength of 1.15 Tesla resulted in the rejection of 81% of the iron. Leaching of the magnetic fraction provided significantly higher Fe recovery relative to untreated feed material and the non-magnetic fraction. The non-magnetic fraction was subsequently calcined at 600 °C to dehydroxylate the clays and released the REE minerals in the same manner as the treatment of the original coarse refuse material. A comparison of the leachate elemental concentrations resulting from the leaching of both the calcined non-magnetic and original coarse refuse showed only a slight reduction in the iron content from the non-magnetic material. This finding combined with the REE loss in the magnetic fraction resulted in the conclusion that the magnetic removal step was unfavorable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number327
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • calcination
  • leaching
  • magnetic separation
  • rare earth elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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