Friday 18th October 2019

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Rare earths from coal: Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

by Greg Klein | July 18, 2019

China’s overwhelming dominance of rare earths mining and processing isn’t the only supply problem facing REEs. “Traditional rare earth ore deposits are fast depleting,” points out Maria Holuszko. “They are projected to meet demand for only the next 15 to 20 years.” As lead researcher on a new Geoscience BC project, she and her team plan further study into the viability of sourcing the stuff from coal, specifically southeastern British Columbia’s metallurgical fuel. Plans call for sampling East Kootenay deposits and tailings to quantify and characterize REEs, and to test extraction processes at the laboratory scale.

Rare earths from coal Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

REEs have already been found in coal deposits in B.C., the United States, the Russian Far East and elsewhere. The U.S., which now has REEs at the forefront of its critical minerals strategy, has funded US$10 million to study extraction from coal and/or its byproducts. As assistant professor of mineral processing and co-founder of the Urban Mining Innovation Centre at UBC’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, Holuszko will head a project following up on work by one of her PhD candidates, Vinoth Kumar Kuppusamy. Kumar has already conducted work on a 300-kilo run-of-mine sample taken from two Kootenay operations.

Phase I of the current project calls for analyzing field samples to compile a database of East Kootenay coalfield REE concentration. The next stage involves lab-scale assessment of REE enrichment and an extraction test.

Work should wrap up by March 31, 2021, after which peer-reviewed results will be made public. The not-for-profit’s funding comes from the province, although UBC may contribute facilities and staff time, Geoscience BC director of external relations Richard Truman says.

With a mandate to provide information that helps government, industry and communities make informed decisions, Geoscience BC has worked on over 200 projects since 2005. Watch this video to learn more.

 

Visit the East Kootenay coalfields

Three open pit metallurgical coal mines operated by Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TECK.B welcome the public this summer. Saturday bus tours leave Elkford during July for two-hour trips to Greenhills and during August for two-and-a-half hour trips to Fording River. Bus tours from Sparwood leave Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for two-hour trips to the Elkview mine.

For reservations and further info (including footwear and other clothing requirements), call the Elkford Visitor Centre at 1-855-877-9453, and the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-485-8185. Last trips leave Elkford August 31 and Sparwood August 29.

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