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US DOE gives grants aimed at producing rare earth elements from coal mine waste

The U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, awarded three grants as part of a two-phase US$23.8 million funding program focused on the production of saleable rare earth elements, or REE, from coal mining waste.

The DOE recently announced US$6.9 million in REE research via two programs. Under the first program, three projects were selected to receive an aggregate US$3 million for research on producing salable REE from domestic coal and coal byproducts.

Under the second program, close to US$4 million is designated for projects aiming to accelerate the separation and extraction processes for REE.

One of the research projects will be undertaken by a consortium comprising Ucore Rare Metals Inc., IBC Advanced Technologies Inc., Equinox Chemicals LLC and Physical Sciences Inc. The group was granted US$999,983 to source, beneficiate, concentrate and separate REE using byproducts from a coal preparation plant in Kentucky as an initial feedstock source.

The Ucore group plans to use molecular recognition technology to separate and purify metals, according to a June 12 release from the company.

Ucore, which completed the construction of a pilot plant in Utah in March, recently entered a memorandum of understanding with Commerce Resources Corp. to source feedstock from its Ashram REE property in Quebec.

The DOE also granted US$1 million to a consortium assembled by Texas Mineral Resources Corp., which includes Inventure Renewables Inc., K-Technologies Inc. and Penn State University, according to a separate June 12 release.

The Texas Mineral group will install a modular and portable continuous ion exchange/continuous ion chromatography pilot plant at a site in Pennsylvania and will work on assessing the economic viability of producing scandium and other rare earth elements associated with coal waste material.

Texas Mineral, then known as Texas Rare Earth Resources, was awarded a research contract in September 2015 to investigate the ability to separate and refine three rare earth oxides using similar methods.

In July 2016, Texas Mineral signed a memorandum of understanding with a Pennsylvania coal company to extract scandium and other rare earth byproducts from coal ash and overburden.

Texas Mineral is focused on the development of its Round Top heavy rare earths and industrial minerals property in Texas.

A third research project proposed by Marshall Miller & Associates and partners was also granted US$1 million to use byproducts from a coal washing plant in West Virginia as raw material to extract REE. The group will undertake testing and prepare a technical design for a pilot plant.