Avalon going after REEs at US coal mine

Toronto, Canada-headquartered Avalon Advanced Materials has inked a letter of intent with US firm Coal Strategy Advisors for a 50% stake in the Will Scarlett rare earths recovery project in southern Illinois, US, with the goal of removing rare earth elements (REEs) from acid discharge
Avalon going after REEs at US coal mine Avalon going after REEs at US coal mine Avalon going after REEs at US coal mine Avalon going after REEs at US coal mine Avalon going after REEs at US coal mine

Avalon Advanced Materials will pick up half interest in the Will Scarlett rare earths recovery project outside Marion

Geochemical sampling at Will Scarlett, an idled former coal operation near Marion, has revealed elevated levels of REEs in acid mine drainage (AMD), as well as the metallic elements of cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese and zinc.

Specifically, the companies confirmed, the high concentrations of total rare earth oxides in the mine waste have been found to be over 500 parts per million (PPM). Conversely, unlike other hard rock REE resources, Will Scarlett does not have significant detections of uranium or thorium.

"Avalon and CSA plan to proceed immediately with analytical and process test work to confirm concentration levels and the most efficient extraction process to recover the rare earths from the AMD and precipitates," Avalon officials said.

They added that it will be followed by a detailed construction budget for a demonstration plant.

Initial analytical test work is already in progress, according to Avalon. The next step will be the establishment of a formal joint venture agreement; that will come once the full scope of work needed to push the project forward to first production is determined.

Avalon said it will provide technical expertise to aid in management for the exploration and development work alongside CSA.

"In our research to date on rare earths in coal mine wastes, Will Scarlett stands out as exceptional in terms of the levels of rare earths present in the AMD," Avalon president and CEO Don Bubar said.

"Like our East Kemptville tin project in Nova Scotia, Will Scarlett provides Avalon with an opportunity to extract value out of previously-mined waste materials at a relatively low cost, and potentially fully remediate the long term environmental liability associated with acid mine drainage at the site."

The news comes as the US is advancing studies for rare earth recoveries from coal mine wastes and flyash as it aims to reduce its dependence on China as a source of the critical minerals.