Hydrometallurgical extraction of rare earth elements from low grade mine tailings

Sebastiaan Peelman, Zhi Sun, Jilt Sietsma, Yongxiang Yang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


The rare earth elements (REEs) present in the Kiruna iron ore mine tailings are being considered as a new REE resource for the EU. These tailings, after beneficiation, contain approximately 5000 ppm of rare earths, concentrated in apatite and monazite minerals. To economically extract the REEs from these tailings the phosphorous contained within the apatite must also be extracted and the waste production of the process should be minimal. To achieve the extraction of REEs and phosphorous HCl and HNO3 were investigated as possible leaching agents. Based on the results a leaching process using HNO3 is proposed. This process produces H3PO4 from the apatite while simultaneously dissolving the REEs. The resulting leach liquor is then cooled to remove the unwanted Ca as Ca(NO3)2. Analysis of the leach liquor reveals extraction ratios of between 75% and 100% for the heavy REE (e.g. Y, Eu, Dy, …) and below 40% from the light REEs (i.e. Ce, La). Full phosphorous extraction was also achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRare Metal Technology 2016
EditorsS. Alam, H. Kim, N.R. Neelameggham, T. Ouchi, H. Oosterhof
Place of PublicationHoboken, NJ, USA
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
ISBN (Print)978-1-119-23107-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventSymposium Rare Earth Technology 2016 - Nashville, TN, United States
Duration: 14 Feb 201618 Feb 2016


ConferenceSymposium Rare Earth Technology 2016
CountryUnited States
CityNashville, TN


  • Rare earths
  • Apatite
  • Phosphoric acid production
  • Low grade REE resources

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