Recovery of rare earth elements from acid mine drainage by ion exchange

The current work addresses the study of the recovery of rare earth elements (REE) from acid mine water by using cationic exchange resin. The acid water was obtained from a closed uranium mine in Brazil. Ion exchange experiments were carried out in batch with three different resins at 25 ± 0.5°C and pH values 1.4, 2.4 and 3.4 (natural). Data were adjusted to the Langmuir equation in order to calculate the maximum loading capacity (qmax) of the resins. The results of qmax for individual REE revealed that the resins present higher loading for La in detriment to the other REE. The Dowex 50WX8 and Lewatit MDS 200 H resins demonstrated favourable sorption profiles to REE, evidenced by values of equilibrium factor (RL) and higher values of the Langmuir constants (b). The separation factors (αHREELREE) indicates that resins are more selective for light REE at all pH studied. The selectivity of the resins for the REE can be described as light REE > heavy REE. The pH 1.4 and 3.4 are more favourable for the recovery of REE.