The system would deliver precious metals while also assisting in the cleanup of coal mining’s toxic legacy. Rare earths are a valuable group of 17 elements used in the production of everything from cellphones and electric vehicles to fluorescent lights and lasers. With global demand growing and China holding a near-monopoly on rare earth mining (the US has just one operational mine), there’s a lot of interest in finding alternate sources, such as increasing recycling.
Extraction of Rare Earth Minerals from Coal Waste
It provides a 2 deal by collecting the materials, you also contribute to environmental cleanup. A carbon mine may leave a nasty legacy long after it closes. When mining waste rock is exposed to water and air sulfuric acid develops and removes heavy metal ions as from rock. This corrosive slurry has the potential to contaminate streams and kill animals.
Recovery of Rare Earths from Acid Mine Drainage
It will not be enough to meet escalating demand for the metals, admits Paul Ziemkiewicz, head of the West Virginia Water Research Institute in Morgantown. However, he cites some advantages.
Unlike ore extracted from traditional rare earth mines, the wastewater is abundant in the most-needed rare earth elements. Furthermore, extraction from acid mine drainage does not produce radioactive waste, which is a common byproduct of rare earth mining, which frequently contain uranium and thorium with the rare earths. In addition, existing facilities for treating acid mine drainage might be utilized to gather rare earths for processing.
“You could theoretically start manufacturing tomorrow,” Ziemkiewicz adds.