The long-term availability of mineral resources is crucial in underpinning human society, technological and economic activity, and managing anthropogenic environmental impacts. This also applies to metals that do not generally form the primary product of mines such as copper or iron, but instead are recovered as by-products during the processing of the main ore.
There have been increasing concerns regarding the reliability of supply for some of these by-product metals, due to:
- many of these metals are recovered only from a limited number of geopolitically concentrated ore deposits.
- extremely low rates of end-of-life recycling (<1%) renders their supplies unable to respond to rapid changes in demand and introduces a new facet of supply risk for the modern technological applications that utilise them.
- when a metal is obtained largely or completely as a by-product, its production is often unable to respond quickly to rapid changes in consumption trends and, as a result, its price can fluctuate widely.
- for many by-product metals, there are no reliable estimates of ore reserves or mineral resources nor cost-effective technologies to recover them without affecting major commodity production.
A joint recovery of by-products from primary sources which belong to the Cu-Ag-Au group is proposed. Most of the targeted by-products elements are Critical Raw Materials as bismuth (Bi), germanium (Ge), indium (In), cobalt (Co), platinum (Pt) and antimony (Sb). Accompanying major product metals, e.g. copper (Cu), silver (Ag) and gold (Au), may also be recovered by this process. The flexibility of the process (to be demonstrated to TRL 5 through a prototype) increases its market penetration potential as a sound systemic solution production. Furthermore, to produce a sound systemic solution, comprehensive by-product potential mapping will be carried out to link the Ion4Raw process with suitable sources. Finally, the Ion4Raw project has a very promising business potential since it will allow mining and mineral processing companies to fully exploit their by-product potential by recovering them at their own facilities. This will contribute to unlocking the full potential of Europe’s inner wealth by converting new and currently unexploited resources into reserves.
SINTEF will contribute with the investigations of the recovery of valuable elements from the pregnant DES by means of electrochemical methods. Moreover, SINTEF will support the activities related to the process validation.
In total, 13 partners from 8 different EU-countries, including a non-European country (Peru):
- OPTIMIZACION ORIENTADA A LA SOSTENIBILIDAD SL, Spain, Coordinator
- BUREAU DE RECHERCHES GEOLOGIQUES ET MINIERES, France
- SCOTGOLD RESOURCES LIMITED, United Kingdom
- CUMBRES EXPLORACIONES SAC, Peru
- WARDELL ARMSTRONG LLP, United Kingdom
- FUNDACION TECNALIA RESEARCH & INNOVATION, Spain
- SINTEF AS, Norway
- TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET BERGAKADEMIE FREIBERG, Germany
- HELMHOLTZ-ZENTRUM DRESDEN-ROSSENDORF EV, Germany
- L'UREDERRA, FUNDACION PARA EL DESARROLLO TECNOLOGICO Y SOCIAL, Spain
- LGI CONSULTING, France
- RINA CONSULTING - CENTRO SVILUPPO MATERIALI SPA, Italy
- PNO INNOVATION, Belgium
This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under GA No. 815748