Rare-earth elements in mining industry's waste piles

phys.org | 11/27/2018 | Staff
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If rare-earth metals can be extracted from previously quarried ore, the environmental hazards of new mines and mining waste can be mitigated. In his doctoral research, Wenzhong Zhang from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki developed a new material by which scandium, a rare-earth metal, can be extracted from the waste of the aluminium industry.

The amount of bauxite needed to manufacture one aluminium tin produces some 60 grams of a reddish, clay-like substance called red mud that manufacturers used to dump in the sea. Now, it is amassing as ever-growing heaps in producer countries including Greece, and there are over 3 billion tonnes of this waste product in the world today.

Problem - Minerals - Waste - Heaps - Quantities

"The problem is that the minerals we want are hidden in the waste heaps in very small quantities, and we do not have efficient methods for extracting them," says Wenzhong Zhang.

In his research, Wenzhong Zhang focused on scandium, an interesting element due to its high cost; scandium mining may soon start in Finland at the Rautalammi deposit. The use of scandium in combination with aluminium will make it possible to manufacture more durable aeroplanes and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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