Leaching recovery of rare earth elements from the calcination product of a coal coarse refuse using organic acids


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Due to the increasing criticality of rare earth elements (REEs), it has become essential to recover REEs from alternative resources. In this study, systematic REEs leaching tests were performed on the calcination product of a coal coarse refuse using hydrochloric acid and different types of organic acid as lixiviants. Experimental results show that the recovery of REEs, especially heavy REEs (HREEs) and scandium (Sc), is improved by using selected organic acids. Citric acid and DL-malic acid afford the best leaching performances; whereas, malonic acid, oxalic acid, and DL-tartaric acid are inferior to hydrochloric acid. Results of zeta potential measurements and solution chemical equilibrium calculations show that malonic acid is more likely adsorbed on the surface of the calcined material compared with citric acid and DL-malic acid. The adsorption may reduce the effective concentration of malonic species in solution and/or increase the amount of REEs adsorbed on the surface, thereby impairing the leaching recovery. Compared with light REEs (LREEs), a stronger adsorption of the HREEs on the surface is observed from electro-kinetic test results. This finding explains why organic acids impose a more positive impact on the leaching recovery of HREEs. By complexing with the HREEs, organic acids can keep the metal ions in solution and improve the leaching recovery. The adsorption of Sc3+ on the surface is the lowest compared with other REEs. Therefore, rather than complexing, the organic anionic species likely play a function of solubilizing Sc from the solid, which is similar to that of hydrogen ions.



Materials, 0914 Resources Engineering and Extractive Metallurgy