A consortium involving Ucore Rare Metals has secured funding from the US Department of Energy (USDoE) to produce saleable rare earth elements (REE) oxide from coal tailings. 

Other companies in the consortium are IBC Advanced Technologies (IBC), Equinox Chemicals (Equinox) and Physical Sciences (PSI).

The consortium received a $1m grant to source, beneficiate, concentrate and separate REE from US-based coal mining refuse.

Ucore Rare Metals president and CEO Jim McKenzie said: "The USDoE recognises that the demand for REE has grown significantly in recent years.

"That unrelenting demand, in combination with the current US dependence on China for strategic metals, has stimulated an interest in economically feasible approaches to a domestic REE supply chain." 

Ucore noted that the programme is consistent with its strategy of developing a US-based strategic metals complex. 

"The USDoE recognises that the demand for REE has grown significantly in recent years."

The metal separation and purification process employed will use molecular recognition technology (MRT), which is an American clean energy technology.

Alongside conducting laboratory testing, team members of the consortium will prepare a technical design for a pilot plant to produce saleable REEs.

By-products from an existing eastern Kentucky coal preparation plant will be used as the initial source of feedstock for the REE.

In addition, design work will examine the recovery and sale of coal from preparation plant by-products as a potential source of auxiliary revenue. 

The grant will be used to carry out works related to the initial lab-scale test and pilot-scale design.

Ucore Rare Metals is focused on rare metals resources, extraction, and beneficiation technologies.