There is a considerable interest in the extraction of rare earths (RE) from NdFeB magnets in order to recycle rare earth elements. Although the wet process using acid is in practical use in the in-plant recycle of sludge, higher selectivity between rare earths and Fe at room temperature is desired. We have recently proposed a pretreatment of corrosion before the hydrochloric acid (HCl) leaching and the oxalic acid precipitation. Almost full recovery of rare earths can be achieved even at room temperature process. In practical extraction methods, employing wet processes, the discharge of waste acid solution is a problem that needs to be solved to reduce the environmental impact. We further present an encouraging demonstration of rare earth extraction from NdFeB magnet using a closed-loop HCl-based process. Triple extraction has been conducted, and the recovery ratio of rare earths is approximately 50% in each extraction, which is reduced from almost 100% recovery in a one-shot extraction. Despite the reduced extraction efficiency, our method with a rather small number of procedures at almost room temperature is still highly advantageous in terms of cost and environmental friendliness. This study represents the initial step toward the realization of a closed-loop acid process in the recycling of rare earth elements.
Part of the book: Noble and Precious Metals