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Energy Fuels, Penn State tapped by DoE for rare earths production design

Colorado-based Energy Fuels confirmed on Sept. 21 that it and Penn State University in Pennsylvania will soon be awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory to examine and develop a conceptual commercial-scale design for a mixed rare earth oxide technology using coal-based resources in an environmentally benign fashion.

The DoE, also has the option to give Energy Fuels a contract for the completion of a feasibility study on the initiative, said it already has demonstrated the technical feasibility of REE extraction from coal and coal-based resources including refuse, over- and underburden, power generation ash and similar material.

“The DOE wishes to accelerate the advancement of commercially viable technologies to produce rare earth elements from these coal-based resources,” the agency said, adding that Energy Fuels applied for the grant to further the study in June 2020 because the REEs in the coal-based resources are similar to those being evaluated by Energy Fuels.

The development will carry a phased approach, the first of which will be to have the contracted awardees complete a detailed conceptual design and flowsheet for a possible commercial operation.

The federal agency will then perform a “merit evaluation” to determine whether or not to award funding for the feasibility study.

“Energy Fuels has been carrying out substantial work over the past year to explore the potential for implementing a commercial rare earth recovery and processing program at our White Mesa mill,” Mark Chalmers, president and CEO of Energy Fuels, said of the announcement.

“This initiative to produce REOs from coal-based resources is complementary to our ongoing efforts and will potentially broaden the sources of REE feedstock available to us in the future. We also hope this project opens the door for us to work with the DOE and other agencies on future rare earth initiatives,” Chalmers concluded.