Grain Size Distribution and Clay Mineral Distinction of Rare Earth Ore through Different Methods
Although clay mineral content in ion-absorbed rare earth ores is crucial for migrating and releasing rare earth elements, the formation, distribution, and migration of clay minerals in supergene rare earth ores have not been fully understood. Therefore, this study analyzes the characteristics of clay mineral type and content, soil particle size, pH value, leaching solution concentration, and leaching rate. This analysis was performed using different methods, such as regional rare earth mine
... rare earth mine soil surveys, in situ leaching profile monitoring, and indoor simulated leaching. The results showed that the grain size and volume curve of rare earth ore have unimodal and bimodal shapes, respectively. X-ray diffraction showed the differences in clay mineral types formed by different weathered bedrocks. The principal clay minerals were kaolinite, illite, chlorite, and vermiculite, with their relative abundance varying with parent rock lithology (granite and low-grade metamorphic rocks). In the Ganxian granite weathering profile, the kaolinite content increased from top to bottom. The decomposition of feldspar minerals to kaolinite was enhanced with an increase in the SiO2 content during weathering. The in situ leaching profile analysis showed that the kaolinite content increased initially and then decreased, whereas the illite/mica content exhibited the opposite trend. Under stable leaching solution concentration and leaching rate, clay mineral formation is favored by lower pH. Low pH, low leaching rate, and highly-concentrated leaching solution (12 wt%) resulted in a slow increase in kaolinite content in the upper part of the profile (30 cm). A lower concentration of the leaching solution (4 wt%) resulted in rapid enrichment of kaolinite after 15 days. Low pH, leaching solution concentration, and leaching rate promoted the formation of distinct kaolinite horizons. We suggest that by disregarding other control factors, rare earth recovery of over 90% can be achieved through leach mining with solutions of 8 wt% and a pH of 5 at a leaching rate of 5 mL/min.