Researchers Examine New Source of Critical Rare Earth Elements in BC Coalfields

Vancouver, BC July 18, 2019 – A new Geoscience BC project will examine how a group of important metals used in personal electronics, renewable energy generation and defense technologies, known as Rare Earth Elements (REE), could be extracted from British Columbia’s coal deposits and coal tailings facilities.

Coal deposits have been identified and studied in the United States and elsewhere as a potential source of REE.  In BC, coal deposits may become a viable source, but little work has been done to characterize and quantify the REE content of these deposits.

“Consumption of rare earth elements has increased rapidly with the emergence of clean energy and defense-related technologies, ” said project leader, Dr. Maria Holuszko, Assistant Professor of Mineral Processing and co-founder of the Urban Mining Innovation Centre, at the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, the University of British Columbia. “Traditional rare earth ore deposits are fast depleting, they are projected to meet demand for only the next 15 to 20 years.”

She added: “The purpose of this research is to characterize and quantify the REE and their mode of occurrence in the East Kootenay coal deposits, as well as to study the possible extraction of these elements.”

During the Characterization and Extraction of Rare Earth Elements from East Kootenay Coalfields – REE BC Coal Project, Holuszko’s research team will examine samples collected from BC coalfields, quantify and characterize the REE found within them, and test potential extraction processes at the laboratory scale.

Commenting on the project, Christa Pellett, Geoscience BC Vice President, Minerals, said: “This new project will generate information that may help us establish a source of important rare earth elements here in BC. These elements are in demand because they are critical to renewable energy development, such as the strong magnets used in wind turbines.”

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