Methods of extracting Rare-Earth Elements (REE) from waste products of bauxite mining, such as in Georgia�s Coastal Plain, to enable the production of more REE domestically (GSU 2021-05)

About

Introduction:

The rare-earth elements (REE), also called rare-earth metals, are a group of 17 metallic elements that can be found in Earth�s crust. These elements include the 15 lanthanides, scandium, and yttrium. REE are critical components in more than 200 products in a variety of applications, including high-tech consumer products, significant defense systems, electronic equipment, and many more. Although REE might only be an insignificant portion of a product in terms of weight or volume, the product would not be possible without them. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the global REE market in 2018 was about $8 billion. However, the vast majority of REE is sourced from one country � China � which accounts for 81% of the REE production worldwide. The U.S. government and private sector have begun investing heavily in resources and technologies that could improve the domestic production of REE. Given the vital role of REE in modern technology and defense applications, it is important to identify sources of REE-enriched geological materials domestically and the methods for mining and purifying them.


Technology:

Georgia State researchers have discovered an enrichment of heavy REE in the grit fraction generated during sedimentary kaolin and bauxite mining in the Georgia Coastal Plain and have developed methods of extracting the REE from such mining operations in Georgia and elsewhere. The bauxites are enriched in the REE compared to their concentrations in the upper continental crust. For example, the REE Ytterbium is enriched 35 times relative to the upper continental crust in the indurated clay layer situated between bauxite and kaolin beds in Georgia. The methods here, involving the detection of pathfinder elements or radioactivity, enable the potential for significant REE extraction from mining operations that are not originally directed toward REE extraction � thus providing additional sources of REE domestically.

Key Benefits

May potentially enable the exploitation of significant additional sources of REE-enriched materials domestically from material that is otherwise discarded as waste products.
Intended to provide methods for mining, enriching, and purifying REEs from mining operations not otherwise directed toward REE extraction.
May benefit the development of emerging and diverse modern technology with less reliance on non-domestic raw materials

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