Assaying Rare Earth Elements Within the Apatite-Rich Tailing from The Pea Ridge Iron Mine for Froth Flotation Processing


To address the U.S. Department of Energy's critical minerals strategies regarding rare earth elements (REE) in the U.S.A. This study evaluated apatite-rich mine tailing from the historic Pea Ridge Iron Mine (PR) for possible enrichment of REE by the froth flotation process. Comprehensive characterization studies were performed on the tailing samples to quantify the REE content, identify the REE-bearing minerals and their liberation behavior. The aforementioned characterization studies were: x-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF), inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and TESCAN's Integrated Mineral Analysis (TIMA). The ICP-MS analysis showed that the concentrations of heavy-REE and light-REE were 8000 ppm and 3000 ppm, respectively. TIMA showed that monazite was the major REE-bearing mineral. Additionally, it was shown that monazite and other REE-bearing minerals were strongly locked within larger apatite grains. Findings from the characterization studies suggested that REE could be enriched using phosphate minerals' direct froth flotation process. Flotation feasibility tests were performed using selected organic and inorganic iron oxides' depressants, including polyacrylamide (PAM), in-house synthesized hybrid polyacrylamide (HyPAM), chitosan, sodium silicates, and corn starch. Results showed that the depressant's efficiency at pH 9 was in the following order: HyPAM > chitosan > PAM > sodium metasilicate > corn starch. Zeta potential studies on the selected depressants indicated that chitosan had the highest adsorption on magnetite's surface at pH 7. Therefore, additional batch flotation experiments using chitosan as an iron oxides depressant were conducted as a function of chitosan dosage. Results indicated that the highest P2O5 recovery of 55% and grade of 28 wt.% were obtained at 150g/t of chitosan. However, the concentrate's highest total REE enrichment of 1.07% was achieved at a 200 g/t dosage of chitosan. The low enrichment of REE highlighted the complex mineralogy of the PR tailings and the need to implement additional beneficiation strategies before and after the froth flotation process.


Mining Engineering

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Article - Conference proceedings

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Publication Date

01 Jan 2022

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