DOI: 10.3390/min13081031 ISSN: 2075-163X

Advances in Analytical Techniques and Applications in Exploration, Mining, Extraction, and Metallurgical Studies of Rare Earth Elements

V. Balaram
  • Geology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology

The use of analytical techniques is important and critical in all areas related to REE, such as basic fundamental research, exploration, mining, extraction, and metallurgical activities at different stages by different industries. At every stage of these activities, rock, ore, minerals, and other related materials have to be analyzed for their REE contents in terms of elemental, isotopic, and mineralogical concentrations using different analytical techniques. Spectacular developments have taken place in the area of analytical instrumentation during the last four decades, with some of them having shrunk in size and become handheld. Among laboratory-based techniques, F-AAS, GF-AAS, ICP-OES, and MP-AES have become very popular. Because of high sensitivity, fewer interference effects, and ease of use, ICP-MS techniques, such as quadrupole ICP-MS, ICP-MS/MS, ICP-TOF-MS, MH-ICP-MS, HR-ICP-MS, and MC-ICP-MS, with both solution nebulization as well as direct solid analysis using laser ablation sample introduction methods, have become more popular for REE analysis. For direct analysis of solids, INAA, XRF, and LIBS techniques, as well as LA-based ICP-MS techniques, are being extensively utilized. The LIBS technique in particular requires little to no sample preparation. TIMS, SIMS, and SHRIMP techniques are being used for isotopic as well as dating REE depots. Portable analytical techniques, such as pXRF, pLIBS, and Raman spectrometers are able to perform in situ analysis even in the field, helping to make fast decisions during exploration studies. At present, hyperspectral remote sensing techniques including handheld, drone, and satellite-based techniques have become very popular in REE exploration studies because of their ability to cover larger areas in a limited time and, thus, became very cost-effective. Deployment of microanalytical devices/sensors mounted in remotely operated vehicles (ROV) is being successfully utilized in detecting REE-rich deposits in the deep oceans. Providing updated in-depth information on all these important aspects with suitable examples, especially from the point of view of REE research studies is the focal point of this review article.

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