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Chemical Beneficiation Process of Obtaining Rare Earth Elements - Research Paper Example

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This paper "Chemical Beneficiation Process of Obtaining Rare Earth Elements" focuses on the fact that rare earth elements are becoming important in the material industry for various applications for example in the United States where they are used as automobile and petroleum refining catalysts. …
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Chemical Beneficiation Process of Obtaining Rare Earth Elements
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Download file to see previous pages Rare earth elements are not rare as suggested by the name but are abundant in the earth’s crust even more than some metals (see table 1). However, they are dispersed and their concentration on the earth’s crust is very low and therefore they cannot be easily exploited. In addition, each rare earth deposit is unique and contains different ore bodies which contain several rare earth elements in varying proportions. Rare earth elements do not occur naturally in the elemental state as most metallic elements but are found in a large number of minerals types including halides, oxides, carbonate, phosphate and silicate (Eriksson and Olsson 5). In this project, we want to address beneficiation as one of the aspects of the chemical process of obtaining rare earth form the naturally occurring ores.
Beneficiation is the second step of mining after the ore is removed from the ground. Beneficiation process is divided into two steps i.e. physical beneficiation and chemical beneficiation. Chemical beneficiation is applied after the physical beneficiation. Depending on the composition of the ore, different chemical techniques can be applied to separate the rare earth elements from other minerals contained in the ore. There are various types of ore bodies which include; monazite, euxenite, gadolinite, xenotime, bastnasite, and Elliot lake uranium (Gupta and Krishnamurthy149). Different ore bodies have different compositions and hence different chemical beneficiation processes.
There are two different chemical beneficiation ways of obtaining rare earth elements from monazite ore. This difference comes from the fact that either sulphuric acid or hydroxide can be used to first attack the ore (Gupta and Krishnamurthy 149).
Acid treatment. In this treatment (see fig.1), concentrated sulphuric acid is used to heat the monazite sand up to a temperature of between 120 and 150°C ( Bongaerts 67). Both thorium and rare earth can be dissolved depending on the acid/ore ratio, the concentration of the acid, amount of water added and the temperature to which the ore is heated.  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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