Extraction of heavy rare earth elements from heavy mineral sands


Project description

The goal of the SEEsand collaborative project is the extraction of economically important heavy rare earth elements (REE) from costal sands of the Baltic Sea. The sands under consideration are currently being processed in large quantities for the construction industry and coastal protection. According to the latest investigations, it is possible to separate heavy mineral fractions enriched in zirconium and heavy REEs during the existing process. The separation of these value components could contribute to the sustainable and environmentally-friendly supply of the German economy with REEs.

The following scientific and technical objectives are pursued with the collaborative project:

  • Estimation of the profitability of strategic raw materials from previously unused heavy mineral fractions of the sands of the Baltic Sea
  • Development of selective leaching processes for heavy REEs from zirconium minerals using bio-mining
  • Development of a bio-sorption process for the extraction of heavy REEs from leaching solutions of low concentration
  • Production of marketable REE concentrates
  • Utilisation of the zirconium-containing leaching residues

Within the scope of the project, the Institute for Mineral and Waste Processing, Waste Disposal and Geomechanics  is developing a process for the mechanical enrichment of the heavy mineral fraction. For sorting, various process combinations of density seperation, electrostatic sorting, magnetic separation and classification are studied. In addition, the mechanical activation as well as the mechano-chemical digestion of zircon concentrates are investigated. The overall goal is to obtain both a REE and a zirconium concentrate.

The research within the framework of the project is also intended to contribute to the international application of the results. Cooperations with Greenland and Denmark exist. Both countries are rich in comparable deposits and have a stable and positive political situation.

Joint partners

  • G.E.O.S. Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH (GEOS)
  • Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR)
  • Institut für Aufbereitung, Deponietechnik und Geomechanik, TU Clausthal
  • Geokompetenzzentrum Freiberg e.V. (GKZ)
  • Landesamt für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Geologie Mecklenburg-Vorpommern  
  • (LUNG)
  • André Voß Erdbau und Transport GmbH (VOSS)

Supported by:

Ministry of Education and Research


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