Recovery of Critical Metals from Aqueous Sources

Serife E. Can Sener, Valerie M. Thomas, David E. Hogan, Raina M. Maier, Michael Carbajales-Dale, Mark D. Barton, Tanju Karanfil, John C. Crittenden, Gary L. Amy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Critical metals, identified from supply, demand, imports, and market factors, include rare earth elements (REEs), platinum group metals, precious metals, and other valuable metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and uranium. Extraction of metals from U.S. saline aqueous, emphasizing saline, sources is explored as an alternative to hardrock ore mining. Potential aqueous sources include seawater, desalination brines, oil- and gas-produced waters, geothermal aquifers, and acid mine drainage, among others. A feasibility assessment reveals opportunities for recovery of lithium, strontium, magnesium, and several REEs from select sources, in quantities significant for U.S. manufacturing and for reduction of U.S. reliance on international supply chains. This is a conservative assessment given that water quality data are lacking for a significant number of critical metals in certain sources. The technology landscape for extraction and recovery of critical metals from aqueous sources is explored, identifying relevant processes along with knowledge gaps. Our analysis indicates that aqueous mining would result in much lower environmental impacts on water, air, and land than ore mining. Preliminary assessments of the economics and energy consumption of recovery show potential for recovery of critical metals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11616-11634
Number of pages19
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 6 2021


  • Critical metals
  • Extraction technologies
  • Mining impacts
  • Saline water sources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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