BC coalfields may be a source of rare earths

Coal. Photo by Alexandru Șerbuță, Pxhere, CC0.

Geoscience BC has set up to start a project aimed at analyzing the possibility of extracting rare earth elements from British Columbia’s coal deposits and coal tailings facilities.

According to Geoscience, coal deposits have been identified and studied in the United States and elsewhere as a potential source of REE. 

Geoscience BC was recently awarded C$5 million in one-year bridge funding to support earth science research in British Columbia 

Based on this information, a team led by Maria Holuszko, a professor at the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering at the University of British Columbia, plans to travel to the East Kootenay area, in the southeastern part of the Canadian province, and collect samples from coalfields that, at least in the scientific literature, have been identified as possible sources of rare earths. 

Once they have the samples, the group will quantify and characterize the REE found within them, and test potential extraction processes at the laboratory scale. 

In parallel, they will develop a database of REE concentration in the East Kootenay coalfields.

“Consumption of rare earth elements has increased rapidly with the emergence of clean energy and defense-related technologies,” Holuszko said in a media statement. “Traditional rare earth ore deposits are fast depleting, they are projected to meet demand for only the next 15 to 20 years.” 

In the expert’s view, the information generated by her project may help establish a ‘home-grown’ source of REEs.