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Coal pollution to critical metals: Recycling rare earth elements from acid mine drainage

Hedin, Benjamin Carl (2021) Coal pollution to critical metals: Recycling rare earth elements from acid mine drainage. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Acid mine drainage (AMD) has been proposed as a novel source of rare earth elements (REE); a group of elements that include critical metals for clean energy technologies. REE are sequestered in the waste solids produced from precipitating metals during the treatment of AMD. Because these solids are typically landfilled or buried on site, they are a low cost, readily available REE source.
Here, I present my results from sampling AMD waters and solids, characterizing AMD solids using chemical and physical techniques, and constructing geochemical models to simulate dissolved REE attenuation from AMD. Sampling data show that AMD solids produced from low pH AMD treated by limestone or NaOH produce solids with the highest concentrations of REE and that these solids typically contain Fe, Al, and Mn phases. Characterization demonstrates that for all AMD solids evaluated, acidic and/or reducing extractions are required to mobilize REE. In solids dominated by Al phases, REE are widely dispersed throughout. However, in solids containing Fe and Mn phases, REE can co-associated with these phases. Finally, geochemical modeling indicates that pH dependent dissolved REE attenuation is dominated by surface complexation on Fe, Al, and Mn oxide/hydroxides. The models developed here can be applied to other AMD systems to predict REE removal and what solid phases will be enriched in REE and to engineer AMD systems to produce specific minerals enriched in REE.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hedin, Benjamin Carlbch37@pitt.edubch37
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCapo,
Committee MemberStewart,
Committee MemberBain,
Committee MemberJones,
Committee MemberVesper,
Committee MemberCravotta,
Date: 3 May 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 March 2021
Approval Date: 3 May 2021
Submission Date: 7 April 2021
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 168
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Geology and Environmental Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: acid mine drainage, coal mine drainage, rare earth elements, geochemical modeling, sequential extractions, synchrotron
Date Deposited: 03 May 2021 15:01
Last Modified: 03 May 2022 05:15


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