The main aim of the REEScue project is the efficient exploitation of European bauxite residues (BR), containing appreciable concentrations of scandium and Rare Earth Elements (REE), through the development of innovative extraction and separation technologies. It is estimated that the potential quantity of the extracted metals from the annual BR production only from 3 plants (AoG, ETI, VIMETCO) is 1385 t/y Total Rare Earth Oxides (TREO). This represents 14.6% of the EU needs in TREOs. The overall target is to develop a stable and secure EU CRM supply chain to serve the needs of EU high tech industry.
The project concept and the proposed technical solutions are based on the a combination of physical and hydrometallurgical processes that will enable the recovery of Sc and REEs from Bauxite Residue, the production of other valued marketable products and the drastic reduction of the quantity of BR to be disposed.
BR is rich in minerals and metals of high economical interest.
Bauxite residue is a highly alkaline and very fine-grained by-product of the Bayer process. Its huge global annual production, ~150 million tons, has resulted in BR increasing accumulation, causing deposition problems and environmental problems. The valorization of BR as a low cost secondary raw material and metal resource, could be a route for its reduction, introducing the waste again in the economic cycle.
A typical BR material contains up to 1400 ppm TREO, corresponding to about 1000 ppm in Total Rare Earths (TREE). Particularly important is BR content in REE and CRMs including Nd (110 ppm), La (150 ppm), Y (120 ppm), Ds (20 ppm). Additionally, ERA-MIN2 REEScue – ID: 82 3 of 9 BR is rich in scandium (Sc). BR contains ~120 ppm Sc per ton of dry BR. In Europe, alumina industries utilize about 12 million tons of bauxite to produce about 7 million tons of alumina. The current BR production in the EU is 6.8 million tons per year and it is estimated that the cumulative BR stockpile is more than 250 million tons.