Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 917–929 | Cite as

The Occurrence and Concentration of Rare Earth Elements in Acid Mine Drainage and Treatment Byproducts. Part 2: Regional Survey of Northern and Central Appalachian Coal Basins

  • Christopher R. VassEmail author
  • Aaron Noble
  • Paul F. Ziemkiewicz


Many modern industries rely on rare earth elements (REEs) to produce products that are essential to both civil and defense applications. In a prior study (Vass et al., 2019), the authors showed that REE grades in acid mine drainage (AMD) and associated byproduct precipitates from AMD treatment (AMDp) warrant evaluation as a feedstock for REE production. The current work extends that effort through a broad survey of 141 AMD treatment sites in Northern and Central Appalachia. In this study, 185 raw AMD and 623 AMDp field samples were obtained and analyzed to assess the REE and major metal concentrations. Results show that an average of 282 μg/L and 724 g/tonne of REEs occur in AMD and AMDp respectively. Additionally, both basins contained similar distributions of REEs, and these distributions tended to favor heavy and critical REEs when compared with traditional REE ore deposits. Geospatial analysis identified a total resource of 340 tonnes stored at the 141 sites sampled in this study. While this analysis did not quantify the basin-wide REE inventory, it does indicate the impact that processing cut-off grades will have on the overall AMDp resource base.


Acid mine drainage Rare earth elements Coal byproducts 



This material is based upon the work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under award number DE-FE0026444.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the US Government. Neither the US Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the US Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the US Government or any agency thereof.


  1. 1.
    Haque N, Hughes A, Lim S, Vernon C (2014) Rare earth elements: overview of mining, mineralogy, uses, sustainability and environmental impact. Resources 3:614–635. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    U.S. Geological Survey (2018) Mineral Commodity Summaries 2018: US Geological Survey 2018.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Campbell GA (2014) Rare earth metals: a strategic concern. Miner Econ 27:21–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Goodenough KM, Wall F, Merriman D (2017) The rare earth elements: demand, global resources, and challenges for resourcing future generations. Nat Resour Res 27:1–16. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bauer D, Diamond D, Li J, McKittrick M, Sandalow D, Telleen P (2011) Critical Materials StrategyGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Seredin VV, Dai S (2012) Coal deposits as potential alternative sources for lanthanides and yttrium. Int J Coal Geol 94:67–93. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Preston JS, Cole PM, Craig WM, Feather AM (1996) The recovery of rare earth oxides from a phosphoric acid by-product. Part 1: leaching of rare earth values and recovery of a mixed rare earth oxide by solvent extraction. Hydrometallurgy 41:1–19. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Preston JS, Cole PM, Du Preez AC, Fox MH, Fleming AM (1996) The recovery of rare earth oxides from a phosphoric acid by-product. Part 2: the preparation of high-purity cerium dioxide and recovery of a heavy rare earth oxide concentrate. Hydrometallurgy 41:21–44. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Preston JS, Du Preez AC, Cole PM, Fox MH (1996) The recovery of rare earth oxides from a phosphoric acid by-product. Part 3. The separation of the middle and light rare earth fractions and the preparation of pure europium oxide. Hydrometallurgy 42:131–149. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Preston JS (1996) The recovery of rare earth oxides from a phosphoric acid byproduct. Part 4. The preparation of magnet-grade neodymium oxide from the light rare earth fraction. Hydrometallurgy 42:151–167. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Binnemans K, Tom P, Blanpain B, Van GT, Yang Y, Walton A et al (2013) Recycling of rare earths : a critical review. J Clean Prod 51:1–22. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Gambogi J (2015) Minerals Yearbook:2018Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Rademaker JH, Kleijn R, Yang Y (2013) Recycling as a strategy against rare earth element criticality: a systemic evaluation of the potential yield of NdFeB magnet recycling 2013.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Finkelman RB, Stanton RW (1978) Identification and significance of accessory minerals from a bituminous coal. Fuel 57:763–768. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Schofield A, Haskin L (1964) Rare-earth distribution patterns in eight terrestrial materials. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 28:437–446. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Zubovic P, Stadnichenko T, Sheffey NB (1966) Distribution of minor elements in coals of the Appalachian region. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    United States Department of Energy (2017) Rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hower JC, Granite EJ, Mayfield DB, Lewis AS, Finkelman RB (1900) Notes on contributions to the science of rare earth element enrichment in coal and coal combustion byproducts. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Stuckman MY, Lopano CL, Granite EJ (2018) Distribution and speciation of rare earth elements in coal combustion by-products via synchrotron microscopy and spectroscopy. Int J Coal Geol 195:125–138. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Honaker RQ, Zhang W, Yang X, Rezaee M (2018) Conception of an integrated flowsheet for rare earth elements recovery from coal coarse refuse. Miner Eng 122:233–240. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Honaker RQ, Groppo J, Yoon R-H, Luttrell GH, Noble A, Herbst JA (2017) Process evaluation and flowsheet development for the recovery of rare earth elements from coal and associated byproducts. Miner Metall Process 34:107–115. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Zhang W, Yang X, Honaker RQ (2018) Association characteristic study and preliminary recovery investigation of rare earth elements from fire clay seam coal middlings. Fuel 215:551–560. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Laudal DA, Benson SA, Palo D, Addleman RS (2018) Rare earth elements in North Dakota lignite coal and lignite-related materials. J Energy Resour Technol 140:062205. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Laudal DA (2017) Evaluation of rare earth element extraction from North Dakota coal-related feed stocks. University of North Dakota, Grand ForksGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lin R, Stuckman M, Howard BH, Bank TL, Roth EA, Macala MK et al (2018) Application of sequential extraction and hydrothermal treatment for characterization and enrichment of rare earth elements from coal fly ash. Fuel 232:124–133. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lin R, Howard BH, Roth EA, Bank TL, Granite EJ, Soong Y (2017) Enrichment of rare earth elements from coal and coal by-products by physical separations. Fuel 200:506–520. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lin R, Bank TL, Roth EA, Granite EJ, Soong Y (2017) Organic and inorganic associations of rare earth elements in central Appalachian coal. Int J Coal Geol 179:295–301. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Hower JC, Groppo JG, Joshi P, Dai S, Moecher DP, Johnston MN (2013) Location of cerium in coal-combustion fly ashes: implications for recovery of lanthanides. Coal Combust Gasif Prod 5:73–78. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Kolker A, Scott C, Hower JC, Vazquez JA, Lopano CL, Dai S (2017) Distribution of rare earth elements in coal combustion fly ash, determined by SHRIMP-RG ion microprobe. Int J Coal Geol 184:1–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Taggart RK, Hower JC, Hsu-Kim H (2018) Effects of roasting additives and leaching parameters on the extraction of rare earth elements from coal fly ash. Int J Coal Geol 196:106–114. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Hower JC, Berti D, Hochella MF, Mardon SM (2018) Rare earth minerals in a “no tonstein” section of the Dean (Fire Clay) coal, Knox County, Kentucky. Int J Coal Geol 193:73–86. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Joshi P, Preda D, Skyler DA, Tsinberg A, Green BD, Marinelli WJ, (2015) Recovery of rare earth elements and compounds from coal ash. 8969688 B2Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Huang Q, Noble A, Herbst J, Honaker R (2018) Liberation and release of rare earth minerals from Middle Kittanning, Fire Clay, and West Kentucky no. 13 coal sources. Powder Technol 332:242–252. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Honaker R (2017) Pilot-scale testing of an integrated circuit for the extraction of rare earth minerals and elements from coal and coal byproducts using advanced separation technologies 2017.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Zhang W, Rezaee M, Bhagavatula A, Li Y, Groppo J, Honaker R (2015) A review of the occurrence and promising recovery methods of rare earth elements from coal and coal by-products. Int J Coal Prep Util 35:295–330. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Vass C, Noble A, Ziemkiewicz P (2019;In Press) The occurrence and concentration of rare earth elements in acid mine drainage and treatment byproducts. Part 1: initial survey of the Northern Appalachian coal basin. Mining Metall Explor.
  37. 37.
    Seredin VV, Dai S (2012) International journal of coal geology coal deposits as potential alternative sources for lanthanides and yttrium. Int J Coal Geol 94:67–93. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Cox C, Kynicky J (2018) The rapid evolution of speculative investment in the REE market before, during, and after the rare earth crisis of 2010–2012. Extr Ind Soc 5:8–17. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Binnemans K, Jones PT, Muller T, Yurramendi L. Rare earths and the balance problem: how to deal with changing markets? J Sustain Metall 2018;8:126–46. doi:, 146.
  40. 40.
    Skousen JG, Ziemkiewicz PF (1995) Acid mine drainage control and treatment. West Virginia University, MorgantownGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Korotev RL (2009) “Rare earth plots” and the concentrations of rare earth elements (REE) in chondritic meteorites 2009.
  42. 42.
    Kim E, Osseo-Asare K (2012) Aqueous stability of thorium and rare earth metals in monazite hydrometallurgy: Eh-pH diagrams for the systems Th-, Ce-, La-, Nd- (PO4)-(SO4)-H2O at 25 °c. Hydrometallurgy 113–114:67–78. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Cravotta CA, Brady KB, Rose AW, Douds JB (1999) Frequency distribution of the pH of coal-mine drainage in Pennsylvania. In: US Geol Surv Water-Resources Investig Report 99-4018A, pp 313–324Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Leavitt, B.R., Stiles, J.M., Donovan, J.D., Ziemkiewicz, P.F. 2005. Strategies for Cooling Electric Generating Facilities Utilizing Mine Water: Technicaland Economic Feasibility. In. Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Int’l Pittsburgh Coal Conference. 12-15 Sep 2005. Pittsburgh PA, USA.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Bryan RC, Richers D, Anderson HT, Gray T. Assessment of rare earth elemental contents in select United States coal basins. 2015.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Oddo G (1914) Die Molekularstruktur der radioaktiven Atome. Zeitschrift Für Anorg Chemie 87:253–268. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Harkins WD (1917) The evolution of the elements and the stability of complex atoms. I. A new periodic system which shows a relation between the abundance of the elements and the structure of the nuclei of atoms. J Am Chem Soc 39:856–879. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Lifton J, Hatch G (2016) Technology Metals Research. Accessed 10/09/2017

Copyright information

© Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West Virginia Water Research InstituteMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Tech Mining and Minerals EngineeringBlacksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations