Project results

Work Package 1

The WP deals with Project Management.

  • Deliverable 1.3.2 A specific document on IP management of the pilot site (Responsible: UNIBO)

Besides the formal aspects and standard project advancement, a very important point deserved attention: to perform a sustainable agreement among the Partnership and the Pilot Site owner (the active bauxite mine and processing plant in Greece) to perform field activities and to share data and publishing results.

  • Deliverable 1.3.3 An update of D1.3.3 considering the findings of WP4 and WP5 (Responsible: UNIBO)

At the Project end, a new agreement was signed between the Consortium and the Pilot Site owner, Mytilineos. Due to this, only a part of the results are publicly disclosed, while many remain confidential. If interested to specific project results, not available in website, please get in contact with us through the Contacts page.

Work Package 2

INCO-Piles is classified as a "matchmaking and networking" Project. Due to this, one of the main Project targets is to bring together the European community (with special focus to RIS Regions) involved in the topic of recovery of Critical Raw Materials from mining wastes. Work Package 2 is dedicated to this task, through the organization of two Round Tables, exposing and discussing the challenges and key technologies over the topic.

  • Deliverable 2.4.1 Minutes of the First Round Table (Responsible: UBDX)

The first round table addressed the challenges in recovering CRMs from tailings. The hybrid event was organized on December 11, 2020 in Bologna and online. The discussions were based on three topics: (1) challenges in sampling and characterization from mining residue, (2) extraction and processing challenges, and (3) economic and environmental challenges. 73 experts from all over the world attended the event, mostly online due to the current Covid-19 crisis and its impact on mobility. The insights discussed will serve as a baseline for defining best practices for characterization and sampling of CRMs in mine wastes, to increase awareness of the need to take into account the sustainability in the supply of mineral resources and improving old mining sites' environmental quality. More information can be found in the dedicated section

  • Deliverable 2.4.2 Minutes of the Second Round Table (Responsible: UBDX)

The second round table was organized in Athens, Greece on September 8, 2021, as a side event of the “International Conference on Raw Materials and Circular Economy” (RawMat 2021). The topic was “Opportunities for technology transfer to foster the recovery of Critical Raw Materials (CRM) from mining residues”. This event aimed to give the possibility to experts, both from the European and international level, to meet, engage in multiple discussions and exchanges on the topic. The first session aimed to present a complete view of the potential and dangers of recovering CRMs from bauxite residues, trying to tackle the challenges exposed in the first round table. The EIT RawMaterials ongoing activities on the recovery of CRMs were presented, followed by presentations on the preliminary results of bauxite residuals INCO-Piles case study: the sampling grid definition and activity, the sample analysis and the life cycle assessment. Moreover, a specific insight on the hidden issue of radionuclide content of bauxite residuals and the related health risks was given. The second session consisted in the presentation of three case studies of effective and practical recovery of CRMs from mining residues. The first presentation was devoted to a practical case study of recovery of elements from tailings, to prolongate the life time of the copper processing, then with benefits for the local communities. The second presentation proposed a new industrial solution, object of an European Project for titanium recovery from different types of residues. The third presentation showed the efforts of a processing group in Romania to recovery secondary resources such as magnesium, calcium and chromium from tailings. Additional information can be found in the dedicated page. The main results of the discussion are:

Sampling: it must be performed according to a higher variance than natural deposits, therefore site-specific criteria must be considered and the material flow must be checked;

Excavation: the traditional mining machines cannot be used, since residues are generally humid materials. A good project should integrate the excavation approach of re-excavating and re-disposal of residuals.

Processing: a winning approach is to place the plant for processing CRMs besides the disposal facilities, to reduce transport cost and increase social acceptability.

Environmental protection: the radioactive potential of new and old residues must be measured and, according to the results, different by-products and techniques for re-disposal can be chosen.

Circular economy: firstly, the financial value of the CO2 emissions savings due to recovery should be better quantified. Secondly, to maximise the economic profit of recovery, the possibility of reprocessing multiple materials from the same residues should be considered, to reduce the processing cost. Thirdly, a further step in the value chain should be attempted to directly produce the alloy from the recovery of metals, thus increasing the redditivity of the original process. Fourthly, to make the reprocessing sustainable on long term, the energy costs must be reduced, mainly by exploiting renewable energy and taking advantage of subsidies because of CO2 reduction due to recovery.

Social aspects: the possibility for recovery should be always evaluated to extend the life of the mine, when closure can provoke a social problem for local communities.

Work Package 3

The INCO-Piles project seeks to define best practices and technologies to recover Critical Raw Materials from mine tailings and stockpiles. An essential aspect for meeting this goal regards the understanding of the value of some mine waste deposits. The re-mining of mine tailings bears close similarity with the mining of primary ores and, as such, an essential part on a metal recovery project from mine wastes is the evaluation phase, which comprises an assessment on the presence of potential recoverable ore and assessment of the feasibility for project development. In this framework, the objective of the INCO-Piles Work Package 3 focuses on a comprehensive review of sampling characterisation and processing techniques, which can be applied to stockpiles and tailings.

  • Deliverable 3.1 Report with techniques, instruments and methods for sampling (Responsible: DELFT)

The goal of the Deliverable is to collect best available technologies and methods currently in use in the world mining sector for the specific application on stockpiles and tailings. Task 3.1 of WP 3 consisted of reviewing sampling methods and sample analytical techniques for the initial characterisation of the mine waste material. The review covers not only traditional methods and techniques but also novel approaches for material characterisation.

  • Deliverable 3.2 Report with techniques for evaluation of CRMs variability (Responsible: UNIBO)

Task 3.2 of WP3 consisted of reviewing characterization techniques for understanding presence of raw materials (with special reference to critical raw materials - CRMs) inside the mining wastes (both stockpiles and tailings). The review covers different aspects, such as EU legislation in mining wastes management, environmental characterization of historical mining areas for pollution detection, grade characterization for recovery of valuable metals, innovative ways and approaches to understand the presence and value of CRMs within the entire mine life cycle. The present Deliverable concludes with comments on the current standards and suggestions about a more effective characterization for practical and economic recovery of CRMs from stockpiles and tailings.

  • Deliverable 3.3 Report with techniques for recovering and processing CRMs (Responsible: UL)

This Deliverable aims to summarize best practices and novelties in field of mineral (re-)processing as well as to address the processing challenges associated with retreatment of tailings and stockpiles and extraction of CRMs.The present report is structured in a following manner: firstly, for each CRM concerned, the existing and emerging recovery technologies are rewired, including recently developed methods, secondly, main mineral processing technologies, novel and performance improving technologies suitable for the tailing and stockpile re-treatment are discussed.

  • Deliverable 3.4 Database, with coordinates and information of mineral residues (Responsible: NTUA)

A database of mineral residues sites in ESEE (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia) and MED (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Portugal) countries was conducted, containing the following information (where available):

1. Location: Country, Prefecture, Nearby Town, GPS Coordinates;
2. Basic Description: Origin of Waste, Small description of the site;
3. Quantity;
4. Composition: Chemical Analysis focusing on CRMs;
5. Ownership: State or Private;
6. Comments: Technical studies, Environmental issues, Active Stockpiles (Growth/year and valorisation).

  • Deliverable 3.5 Report on the motivations for the selection of case study (Responsible: NTUA)

The consortium discussed about the criteria in which the case study will be selected, and they concluded to the following:

1. The site should contain CRMs in appropriate concentration;
2. The site should be easily accessible and having enough volume (for sampling etc.);
3. Being an active site is preferential because of data availability;
4. Knowing the hazardous properties and environmental issues for the surrounding area;
5. Having a contact from the site owner and access to data and history of the sampling campaign over the site;
6. Covid-19 limitation on field accessibility and travelling of partners;
7. Radioactivity of a site, which can cause limitations especially close to city areas.

The criteria were listed in a table containing the potential sites, together with the economic importance and the relative level of supply risk of the CRMs in the sites. Based on that, the consortium selected the site as case study: the Bauxite Residue from AoG, in Agios Nikolaos, Greece.

 Work Package 4

The INCO-Piles Consortium is convinced that spreading the interest of stakeholders and business over CRM recovery from mining residuals can be achieved by a combination of matchmaking and networking events and practical applications over pilot sites. In this framework, the Work Package 4 is dedicated to perform pilot site activities: data collection and preliminary information on the type and characteristics of CRMs present in the pilot site, mapping of the stockpile, sampling and sample analysis, preliminary reconstruction of the CRMs variability in the selected application, pre-feasibility analysis of excavation plan, processing and refilling of the selected stockpile.

  • Deliverable 4.1 Document containing information on the case study (Responsible: NTUA)

The Consortium collected all available information over the case study of bauxite residues of MYT, including past research and scientific papers published. During the preliminary characterization, elements and CRMs of interest were already identified, for detection, innovative characterization approach and evaluation of the market potential: lithium, yttrium and neodynium.

  • Deliverable 4.2 An exhaustive map, with the optimised sample grid (Responsible: UNIBO)

Preliminary activities over the case study of MYT involved the use of remote sensing images, to optimize the sampling grid, according also to the piling schedule. The sampling strategy was agreed with the pilot site owner and already involved the responsibles of the industrial and academic labs, in order to prepare for the various types of analyses, with different targets.

  • Deliverable 4.3 Confidential database of obtained samples (Responsible: ORANO)

Bauxite residues were sampled by MYT and NTUA with the following strategy:
- latitude and longitude determined by mobile phone;
- removal of weathered top layer: 0.1 m < sampling depth < 0.4 m;
- sampling with grab: mass ≈ 500 g in plastic bag;
- identification of each plastic bag.

Afterwards, samples were shipped to ORANO, where lab measurements were taken: mass, pH, water content. Afterwards, composites were realised and samples were prepared for further shiipping to BRGM and TU Delft laboratories.

Deliverable 4.4 Report about the results of laboratory analyses (Responsible: TU Delft)

The analytical techniques considered more suitable for characterizing the residues from the pilot case were chosen by the three labs:

  • geochemistry analysis: ICP-AES (ORANO), ICP-MS and SEM (BRGM), XRF (TU Delft)
  • mineralogy: XRD (ORANO), SEM (BRGM), FTIR (TU Delft)
  • other: density, particle size distribution, pH, radoactivity (ORANO)

Due to the confidentiality of the topic, results cannot be publicly available.

If interested, please get in contact with us through the Contacts page.

Deliverable 4.5  A probabilistic map of variability of CRMs in the case study (Responsible: TU Delft)

The analytical techniques considered more suitable for characterizing the residues from the pilot case were chosen by the three labs:

  • geochemistry analysis: ICP-AES (ORANO), ICP-MS and SEM (BRGM), XRF (TU Delft)
  • mineralogy: XRD (ORANO), SEM (BRGM), FTIR (TU Delft)
  • other: density, particle size distribution, pH, radoactivity (ORANO)

Due to the confidentiality of the topic, results cannot be publicly available.

If interested, please get in contact with us through the Contacts page.

Work Package 5

The WP deals with Marketing and Environment

Deliverable 5.1 A report about economic and environmental impact of recovering CRMs from stockpiles (Responsible: ENEA)

The document comprises a full review and critical analysis of economic and environmental impacts of recovering CRMs from mining residues. It is divided in two parts:

  1. A funnel methodology to assess the economic impact
  1. Environmental assessment of mining, mineral processing and tailings managemen

The potential economy of many CRMs are analysed in detail. Among others: Scandium, Titanium, Gallium, REE, Vanadium, Lithium,... On the other hand, the environmental assessment is mostly based on the Life Cycle Assessment methodology, specifically applied to mining residues.

If interested, please get in contact with us through the Contacts page.

Work Package 6

The WP deals with Communication and Dissemination.

  • Deliverable 6.3.1 Minutes of the Final Workshop (Responsible: BRGM)

The Final Workshop, titled “Recovery of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) from mining residues: case study, environmental and economic issues” was mainly addressed to Bachelor and Master Students from the Schools of Engineering involved in the Project, to Stakeholders interested in Project results and to the general public, too. Being at the very end of the Project (Month 24) it gave the opportunity to present the results of Project activities, specifically from Work Packages 4 and 5. Specifically for the Final Workshop, various videos and sone survey on Social License to Operate were prepared by the Consortium. They are accessible from the Project home page