Heritage Group, which owns Retriev Technologies, the largest recycler of lithium-ion batteries in North America, and American Resources, one of the largest owners of mining infrastructure and related assets in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, aims to address this issue through proxy partnership using older tailings from coal mines in the great Appalachia coal mine region of the eastern United States to remove rare earths and reuse them in a new facility being built in Noblesville, Indiana.
American Resources announced in November 2021 that it had received the final permit approval for its initial plant for the isolation and purification of rare earths and critical elements, which is currently being built and put into operation in Q1 2022.
In December, the West Virginia Economic Development Authority approved the issuance of $ 45 million in revenue bonds for American Resources’ Wyoming County Coal complex in West Virginia.
“What we are doing is taking large hereditary assets and restructuring and repositioning them to make money on the entire asset base with a focus on infrastructure electrification,” Mark Jansen, CEO of American Resources, told MINING.com. “We are acquiring older commitments [that] most do not know how to deal with it [and] take these acidic mining drainage sites, and through a range of technologies, we are changing the economy of the by-product. “
The process consists of capturing obsolete wind turbine generators, EV motors, lithium-ion batteries / black mass and carbon-based deposition raw material and then digesting them into a type of salt, which is later processed through separation shear chromatography to isolate and purify the individual elements.
Once this pilot plant has yielded results, the company wants to build a commercial treatment plant that is expected to operate up to 12 production trains and produce over 3 million kilos of rare earth elements.
“We modify either the carbon in the process or the carbon processing, and with that we add our rare earth technologies to be in line with our existing carbon properties to produce rare earth concentrate,” Jansen said.
“We want to be part of the supply chain that is absolutely needed right now – while using environmental responsibility through coal mining to find valuable ways to remove rare earths in an economical way, which is a challenge. Through it, we have built a technological process chain that has turned us into more of a circular economy, focusing on reusing existing magnets. ”
Jonathan Schalliol, director of HG Ventures, the venture capitalist investment arm of Heritage Group, said the parent company has operating companies predominantly in North America, but also in Europe and China in environmental services, construction and materials and specialty chemicals.
“We are investing in companies and trying to figure out how we can help move the US rare earth industry forward,” Schalliol told MINING.com.
“We are investing what we see as the future of the industry – we are looking for a sustainable future in materials infrastructure, environmental solutions and industrial systems and also to invest in battery manufacturers,” he said.
Schalliol said HG Ventures brings know-how to recycling and processing materials, and they aim for 36% concentrate of high-value magnets.
Jansen said that in order to enter the supply chain, you need the ores or magnets, and also the technology, and that the key to their business is the final stage of insulation and purification technology to produce the product that goes into the magnets or cathode. .
“Our technology can take any kind of concentrate – in the coal industry you can produce concentrate to ppm and we can take it and isolate it and purify it and make a high value product of rare earths,” said Jansen, adding that this can be done with any ore from any mining.
“In the United States today, no one is isolating and purifying these items to a price-competitive number, significantly below China because of the technology,” Jansen said.
“The environmental side of it is how we can not only treat from the raw material of carbon, but the waste management of spent batteries – our facilities are able to process all that raw material,” said Jansen.
“The concept of concentration is a big thing – going after that high-value concentrate – it’s the main driving force,” he said. “The mining industry needs to do a better job of leveraging innovative technologies [as a way] to seek to clean up environmental obligations. ”