Rare earth elements and uranium in Minjingu phosphate fertilizer products: Plant food for thought

Nils H Haneklaus, Dennis A Mwalongo, Jacob B Lisuma, Aloyce I Amasi, Jerome Mwimanzi, Tomislav Bituh, Jelena Ćirić, Jakub Nowak, Urszula Ryszko, Piotr Rusek, Ali Maged, Essaid Bilal, Hajar Bellefqih, Khaoula Qamouche, Jamal Ait Brahim, Redouane Beniazza, Hamid Mazouz, Elizabet M van der Merwe, Wayne Truter, Hilda D Kyomuhimbo, Hendrik Brink, Gerald Steiner, Martin Bertau, Raghav S Soni, Ashwin W Patwardhan, Pushpito K Ghosh, Thomas T Kivevele, Kelvin M Mtei, Stanisław Wacławek

Erschienen in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 2024/8/1, 207

Minjingu phosphate ore is Tanzania’s sole domestic supply of phosphorus (P). The ore contains medium to high concentrations of naturally occurring P2O5 (20–35 %) and relevant concentrations of uranium and rare earth elements (REEs) are also suspected to be present. Currently, neither uranium nor REEs are recovered. They either end up in mine tailings or are spread across agricultural soils with fertilizer products. This work provides a first systematic review of the uranium and REE concentrations that can be expected in the different layers of Minjingu phosphate ore, the way the ore is presently processed, as well as a discussion on alternative processing pathways with uranium/REE recovery. The study analyzed ten distinct Minjingu phosphate ore layers, four mine tailings, and five intermediate and final mineral fertilizer products from the Minjingu mine and processing plant located in northern Tanzania. The results confirm that the uranium concentrations and to a lesser degree, the REE concentrations are indeed elevated if compared to concentrations in other phosphate ores. The study does not identify a significant risk resulting from this. The development of techno-economic solutions for more comprehensive utilization of Minjingu ore is, however, strongly encouraged and suggestions on such processes are provided.

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Can ultimate recoverable resources (URR) be assessed? Does analyzing declining ore grades help?

Wellmer, F.-W., Scholz, R. W., & Bastian, D. (2023

Erschienen in Mineral Economics, April 2023, Ausgabe 36,

Inspired by a paper by Teseletso and Adachi (Miner Econ 8(10):21, 2021), the hypothesis regarding the declining grade of mined copper ore and its possible use as a guide to the future of ultimate recoverable resources (URRs) is tested. As a time axis, cumulative production is taken. Grades can be either grade of cumulative tonnage or annual production grade. Correlation can be linear (grade and tonnage) or semi-logarithmic (grade linear, tonnage logarithmic). We first show that the assumption that the highest correlation is the best guide to the future may be a fallacy. This is the linear correlation between grades of cumulative tonnage and cumulative tonnages since 1959, i.e., 85% of all copper mined historically with a near-perfect correlation approaching one (R2 = 0.97). This leads to implausibly low results of the URR, clearly demonstrating that this trend must shift in the future. Moreover, Teseletso and Adachi’s (Miner Econ 8(10):21, 2021) approach using a linear or semi-logarithmic correlation between annual grades with cumulative production leads to erroneous results. ...

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Enhancing rare earth element transfer from phosphate rock to phosphoric acid using an inexpensive fly ash additive

Hakkar M.; Arhouni F.E.; Mahrou A.; Bilal E.; Bertau M.; Roy A.; Steiner G.; Haneklaus N.; Mazouz H.; Boukhair A.; Benjelloun M.

Erschienen in ScienceDirect, Oktober 2021, Volume 172, 107166

Adding active silica (SiO2) to reduce the free fluoride content is a known method to improve the filterability of phosphogypsum (PG) during wet phosphoric acid (WPA) processing of phosphate rock (PR). Besides, this process can also promote the transfer of valuable rare earth elements (REE) from the PR into the liquid phosphoric acid (PA) stream rather than into the solid PG matrix from which later economic recovery is more challenging. Khouribga PR, that shows total REE concentrations of 577 ppm (328 ppm heavy REE and 249 ppm light REE) of which yttrium (Y) with 240 ppm constitutes the major fraction, is processed at the Jorf Lasfar El-Jadida chemical complex in Morocco that is also home to the country’s largest coal power plant. Fly ash produced during thermal power production, 70% of which is stacked in the immediate vicinity, presently remains mostly unused and consists largely (48%) of silica. In this work the use of fly ash (34 kg per t PR) and pure silica (8.5 kg per t PR) on the transfer of REE from Khouribga PR into the PA and PG stream during dihydrate WPA production was examined. The inexpensive fly ash/silica additive increases the transfer of various REE to the PA stream. For Y an increase of 37% was measured that resulted in a concentration of 48 ppm in the PA stream prior to further concentration by evaporation.


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Uranium and other heavy metal sorption from Moroccan phosphoric acid with argan nutshell sawdust

Qamouche, K.; Chetaine, A.; El Yahayoui, A.; Moussaif, A.; Fröhlich, P.; Bertau, M.; Haneklaus, N.

Erschienen in ScienceDirect, September 2021, Volume 171, 107085

Argan nutshells, available in Morocco as a low-cost by-product from Argan oil production, were used to produce a sawdust biosorbent for the extraction of U and other heavy metals (Cd, As, Zn, Cu, Ni and Cr) from merchant-grade phosphoric acid (PA). Packed column (D = 20 mm, L = 250 mm, flowrate 1 mL/min) lab-scale experiments were carried out with three different solutions: (1) a synthetic heavy metals solution, (2) pure PA at different concentrations (0.85%, 8.5% and 85%) in water, and (3) merchant-grade PA from an industrial fertilizer plant in Morocco that was diluted with water to analyze different P2O5 contents (5%, 30% and 54%) and a U concentration of up to 157 ppm. The sawdust successfully adsorbed 99% of the U from (1) the synthetic solution and (2) the pure PA independent of the acid concentration. It further managed to adsorb more than half (54%) of U, 75% of Cd, 74% of As, 84% of Zn, 86% of Cu, 83% of Cr of the merchant-grade PA at 54% P2O5 content and a flow-rate of 1 mL/min. The sawdust was characterized by SEM and FTIR to understand the adsorption of metal ions. Column studies were carried out to know the breakthrough point. At breakthrough, the effluent volume was found to be 50 mL and the maximum adsorption capacity for U was found to be 0.93 mg/g. Heavy metal recovery using ANS does not seem to be promising as a result of the low (>10%) desorption rates if citric- or oxalic acid is used as was done in this study. Heavy metal extraction without direct recovery using ANS is promising and should further be investigated though.

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