February 08, 2016
Battelle has added another project aimed at optimizing the benefits from local coal. It received $900,000 in government funding, most of it federal, to economically demonstrate extraction of rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts. The project has been recommended for co-funding by the Ohio Coal Research and Development Program's Technical Advisory Committee. This work adds to the work already being done on Carbon Capture and Sequestration to help keep coal clean, economic, and local.
Inside many coals are key – and expensive – elements used to make components of cell-phone batteries, magnets and wind turbines. These elements are also critical in military communication systems. The current methods of rare earth extraction from coal are economically infeasible.
Most rare earth elements are mined in China. The U.S. doesn't have those mines but it does have plenty of coal and coal ash. Ohio and West Virginia coal especially contain properties necessary for rare earth mineral mining. If proven, it can be a potential new outlet for Ohio Coal.
Battelle's unique approach will use simple acids to extract the rare earth elements out of coal and recycle almost all of the acid instead of disposing it as waste. Thus, reducing costs and leaving a concentrated source of rare earth elements.
The research will target coal mined in the Appalachian region where relatively high rare earth content has been found by the U.S. Geological Survey. The researchers will work with the coal producers and users to locate sources of coal and coal by-products in Ohio with high rare earth content.