Specific challenge: The EU is highly dependent on imports of raw materials that are crucial for a strong European industrial base, an essential building block of the EU's growth and competitiveness. However, Europe is confronted with a number of challenges along the entire raw materials value chain, starting with exploration, to secure a sustainable access to raw materials, including Critical Raw Materials (CRM).
The major challenges are the geological uncertainty, technological and economic feasibility of mine development, and high and growing costs for exploration. In Europe, additional challenges include difficult operation in densely populated areas (access to land) and the fact that the majority of new deposits in Europe will be found at greater depths or in extreme environments such as the Arctic and the oceans.
Europe is also facing the fact that it has been actively mined over many centuries so easy-to-access mineral deposits are mostly exhausted, and exploration activity in the past decades was too low to enable the identification of a sufficient amount of new resources. The major opportunities to access the fresh raw materials within the EU are in greater depths or in smaller deposits where larger mining operations may not be feasible.
In the processing step, the available primary and secondary raw materials feeds are becoming more complex and low grade, and they may also vary in composition over time and contain different size of particles from coarse to very fine grains. Efficient processing requires a series of complex and integrated solutions leading to high investment installations, that will only be economically viable when operating at certain size (economy of scale) and for a predictably-sufficient long time taking into consideration volatility of metal prices. The production process also faces challenges related to water and sediment pollution, atmospheric dispersion, transport and deposition of toxic particles, noise, transport of ores etc.
This specific challenge is identified in the Priority Area 'Technologies for primary and secondary raw materials’ production of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Raw Materials.
Scope: Proposals shall address the following issues. All proposals should facilitate the market uptake of solutions developed through industrially-driven multidisciplinary consortia.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 2 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Related environmental and safety risks should be assessed for all proposed actions.
Proposals should develop solutions, proving concept and feasibility at the level of Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 4-6; please see part G of the General Annex.
New metallurgical systems
Proposals should develop a design and elements of an integrated sustainable metallurgical system (such as pyro-, hydro-, bio-, electro-chemistry) for metals processing and/or refining, maximising metal recovery yield and minimising energy consumption and/or the environmental footprint, while ensuring the economic viability of the entire process. Upstream (pre-processing) and down-stream (treatment/use of metallurgical wastes such as slags, dusts, effluents) interfaces should also be considered.
Expected impact: In the longer term pushing the EU to the forefront in the areas of sustainable exploration, mining and processing technologies and solutions. Improved competitiveness and creation of added value and new jobs in materials producing and downstream industries. Unlocking a substantial volume of various raw materials within the EU. In the short to medium term enabling the better efficiency of exploitation of raw materials’ resources and increasing the range and yields of recovered raw materials. Reduced exploration costs for the industry through new cost-effective exploration technologies. Improved competitiveness and creation of numerous new jobs in mining and equipment manufacturing industries. Improved economic viability and investment security of mining operations. Increased process efficiency (including water and energy consumption) and reduced environmental footprint. Contribution to achieving the objectives of the EIP on Raw Materials.
Type of action: Research and innovation actions