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By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Avalon investigates US and Canada REES

Ramps up coal fly ash pilot; Cheetah takes lead at Nechalacho


Last updated 2/7/2020 at 4:04am

Burning coal ash contains rare earths critical technology metals

Iqraa Raaool; Pixabay

Coal often contains rare earths that are concentrated in the ash after burning. Avalon is piloting a project to recover REEs and other metals from ash at a former coal mine in Illinois.

Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. Feb. 6 reported that headway is being made at its Will Scarlett rare earth elements recovery project in Illinois and Nechalacho REE Mine project in Northwest Territories.

Avalon said the December agreement by Canada and the United States to co-operate on critical minerals supply chain development, particularly rare earths, has resulted in new government initiatives in both countries to support the creation of these supply chains.

The critical minerals-focused company has been actively involved in these discussions to assist in developing an appropriate strategy for Canada.

Avalon believes that development of new, more efficient extraction technologies is particularly important for creating economic rare earth supplies in North America and has been involved in implementing new rare earth recovery technologies at both the Will Scarlett and Nechalacho rare earths projects.

REEs in U.S. coal ash

In October, Avalon announced it had signed a binding letter of intent with Coal Strategy Advisors LLC, a privately held U.S. company, to earn up to a 50 percent interest in Will Scarlett, a former Illinois coal mine where sampling has identified elevated levels of rare earths, cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese and zinc in mine waste materials.

The potential for economic recovery of rare earths and other metals from coal mine wastes and fly ash has been receiving a lot of study in the United States.

"When coal is burned, REEs are retained and enriched in the fly ash and, as a result, fly ash has long been considered a potential resource for REEs," the U.S. Geological Survey penned in a 2019 paper on REEs in coal.

Since signing the agreement, Avalon has been focused on defining an appropriate process flowsheet to recover a mixed rare earth oxide product from an accumulation of precipitates created through historical lime treatment of acid mine drainage (AMD) to neutralize its acidity at Will Scarlett.

Previous sampling indicates these precipitates contain around 900 parts per million rare earths.

"In our research to date on rare earths in coal mine wastes, Will Scarlett stands out as exceptional in terms of the levels of rare earths present in the AMD," Avalon Advanced Materials President and CEO Don Bubar said at the time of the agreement to acquire half ownership in the U.S. project.

Avalon is now evaluating a low-cost rare earth recovery process involving dissolution of the precipitates followed by an innovative proprietary new treatment process to recover the rare earth oxides. Next steps involve the implementation of a small-scale pilot facility at the site to confirm recoveries and scalability of the process flowsheet. This pilot plant is currently being designed and is expected to be ready for installation by June.

Advancing Nechalacho

While Avalon focuses its rare earth efforts on Will Scarlett, Australia-based Cheetah Resources Pty Ltd. has taken the lead on establishing a mine at the Nechalacho REE project at Thor Lake, roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

According to a resource calculated in 2012, the Upper zone at Nechalacho hosts 47.2 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 1.52 percent total rare earth oxides, 2.1 percent zirconium dioxide, 0.29 percent niobium oxide and 0.02 percent tantalum oxide; plus 102.1 metric tons of inferred resource averaging 1.38 percent total rare earth oxides, 2.4 percent zirconium dioxide, 0.33 percent niobium oxide and 0.02 percent tantalum oxide.

In October, Cheetah acquired ownership of the near surface resources in the T-Zone and Tardiff Zones at Nechalacho for C$5 million.

Avalon retains ownership of the resources in the Basal zone, which was the subject of a 2013 feasibility study.

Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction signs rare mining agreement

Vital Metals Ltd.

Cheetah Resources and Det'on Cho sign a mining agreement at the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, BC. Front from left: Det'on Cho Development CEO Paul Gruner; Det'on Cho Nahanni Vice President Kenny Ruptash; Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief Ernest Betsina; Vital Metals Director Evan Cranston; David Connelly, representative of Cheetah Resources; and Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty. Back from left: NWT Minister of Lands Shane Thompson and NWT Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Katrina Nokleby.

Avalon and Cheetah have created a jointly owned special purpose vehicle to hold and manage the permits and authorizations to operate at the site.

Cheetah will assume management of its planned work program to develop the T-Zone resource in 2020, where it intends to utilize sensor-based ore-sorting technology to produce a rare earth mineral concentrate, as originally contemplated by Avalon.

Avalon will continue to provide support services, primarily geological consulting, to Cheetah going forward.

In January, Cheetah signed a landmark agreement with Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction Corp., a Northwest Territories First Nations owned construction company, to run the mining operations at Nechalacho.

"I am delighted to see Cheetah collaborate with Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction Corp. to create this positive new precedent in the North for Indigenous business participation in the mineral industry," said Bubar. "I hope this agreement inspires more Indigenous businesses across northern Canada to see critical minerals supply chain development as an important new business opportunity."

Further details on the mining agreement with Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction can be found at

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Over his more than 11 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.

Phone: (907) 726-1095


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