Will Scarlett project will extract rare earth elements from former coal mine
Canada’s Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. will partner with Coal Strategy Advisors (CSA) on Will Scarlett Rare Earths Recovery Project to extract rare earth elements (REE) and other metallic elements such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese and zinc in mine waste materials near Marion, IL.
The companies signed a binding Letter of Intent that will allow Avalon Advanced Materials to earn up to a 50 percent interest in the project. Will Scarlett is a closed coal mine site where recent geochemical sampling has found elevated levels of rare earth elements (REE) and other metallic elements such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese and zinc in mine waste materials, Avalon said in a press release.
The rare earths are found at Will Scarlett in the acid mine drainage (AMD) and in the precipitates generated from lime treatment of the AMD to neutralize the acidity. Sampling of the precipitates and AMD has revealed high concentrations of total rare earth oxides in excess of 500 ppm. Also notable is that, unlike most hardrock rare earth resources, no significant uranium or thorium has been detected associated with the rare earths at Will Scarlett.
The potential for economic recovery of rare earths from coal mine wastes and fly ash has been receiving a lot of study in the United States. This has accelerated recently with the introduction of new U.S. government initiatives to reduce reliance on China as a source of these critical minerals. These unusual occurrences represent an interesting opportunity to create a new primary rare earths supply relatively quickly and at a low cost compared to typical hardrock resources. CSA has made application for funding being made available by the U.S. government for new rare earth supply chain projects.
Avalon and CSA plan to proceed immediately with analytical and process testwork to confirm concentration levels and the most efficient extraction process to recover the rare earths from the AMD and precipitates. Once this is confirmed, a detailed budget for construction of a demonstration plant can be established which will then determine what the Company's share of costs will be to earn its interest in Will Scarlett. Initial analytical testwork is already in progress. Avalon and CSA will enter a formal joint venture agreement once the full scope of work required to advance the project to initial production is determined. Avalon will also be providing its technical expertise to help manage the exploration and development work at the site in collaboration with 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,” Don Bubar, Avalon President and CEO 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.”