Project Title: A Mineralogical and Hydrometallurgical Investigation of an Ion Adsorption Clay Type Rare Earth Element Deposit, East Africa.
Research Theme: Mineral Value Chains and Strategic Metals
Supervisors: Jochen Petersen
The Rare Earth Elements (REEs), owing to their unique physical and chemical properties, have become indispensable commodities in a global economy geared towards future sustainability. Current research, motivated by recent global REE supply restrictions, has focussed on identifying alternative REE sources outside the current lead global producer, China. Low grade Ion Adsorption Clay (IAC) deposits are of particular interest due to their wide geographic distribution outside of China, higher proportion of more valuable heavy rare earth elements, and the relative ease at which these ores can be processed.
The mineralogical and geochemical characteristics of a non-Chinese source IAC type REE ore will be investigated through a suite of characterisation techniques that will include X-ray Fluorescence spectrometry (XRF), Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), Quantitative Evaluation of Mineralogy by SCANning electron microscopy (QEMSCAN), Quantitative X-ray Diffraction (QXRD) and Electron Probe Micro-Analysis (EPMA). Ore characterisation will be followed by batch extraction tests to evaluate the performance of conventional lixiviants such as NaCl and (NH4)2SO4. The study aims to relate REE extraction performance to mineralogical characteristics in order to propose a mineralogically informed approach to the hydrometallurgical extraction of REEs from IACs.