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Ionometallurgy of primary sources for an enhanced raw materials recovery

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ION4RAW (Ionometallurgy of primary sources for an enhanced raw materials recovery)

Période du rapport: 2020-12-01 au 2022-05-31

The ION4RAW project proposes an energy, material, and cost-efficient new mineral processing technology to recover by-products from primary sources by means of innovative Deep Eutectic Solvent (DES) ionic liquids and advanced electrochemical methods as an only step. A joint recovery of by-products from primary sources that 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), a group of highly demanded materials which are crucial to Europe’s economy yet without reliable and unhindered access from the EU. 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 increases its market penetration potential as a sound systemic solution.
The key objectives of the project are:
a. Develop a novel and sustainable ionometallurgical process to resource and cost-effectively recovery of main by-products from primary sources.
b. Encourage and support by-product recovery by conducting a comprehensive by-product potential identification and assessment
c. Maximize upstream recovery of by-products from primary sources for ionometallurgical processing and minimize the downstream environmental impact.
d. Recover by-products from primary sources through the ionometallurgical route cost-effectively.
e. Design and optimize the overall ION4RAW process from a holistic point of view following a Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) approach.
f. Validate the ION4RAW process.
g. Provide proof of process sustainability from an economic, technical, and environmental point of view, as well as to promote the exploitation of the project’s results.
h. Promote the dissemination and communication of the project’s results and expand the impact of the project.
During this period, the activities within the ION4RAW project have progressed according to the plan and without any significant delays.
The comprehensive by-product potential identification and assessment have been performed at this stage, achieving the related objectives fully. A compilation of geoscientific data from 1400 identified European occurrences for Cu, Au, Ag, and Pb-Zn main commodities have been conducted in order to produce an assessment and inventory of target by-products distribution in existing and currently unexploited resources from Europe. THe ore sampling on five operational five sites (El Porvenir and Cerro Lindo in Peru, Cononish in Scotland, and Cobre Las Cruces and El Valle-Boinas in Spain) has been achieved. And representative batch samples of the different materials were sent to the upstream processing.
Concerning the upstream activities, the produced concentrates have been distributed to partners, and the optimization of the process is also finished. On the other hand, the downstream research has also been fruitful in assessing the solid effluents and DES treatment and valorisation procedures. Several filtration essays have been performed using different DES combinations at room temperature. Vacuum filtration has shown excellent separation (>90% recovery), and DES cleaning activities have been launched with DES decomposition tests and defining different washing strategies.
For the ionometallurgical process development, the main work has focused on developing the optimized ionometallurgical route based on the already obtained results in the DES leaching and electrodeposition field. These results are considered as a base for the development of the upscaled process, where the modeling and conceptual engineering of the process have also been developed. The modeling is supporting the optimization of the operational conditions for the DES leaching and electrodeposition process. The legal and standard exploitation pathways have been updated in this period.
Regarding the activities in the transversal tasks, such as the sustainability assessment, exploitation, dissemination, and communication, they are progressing according to the plan. A first internal document regarding the LCA has been shared within the consortium, and the activities for the market analysis and the exploitation plan keep ongoing. All communication and dissemination activities in which ION4RAW has been involved can be checked on the project's webpage and have been reported on the project's social media channels. Besides, an ION4RAW community has been created in the ZENODO platform, and new project datasets are available.
ION4RAW project aims to have an impact on the progress of by-product recovery activities. The replication and further commercialisation of the ION4RAW process are expected to be carried out after the project completion, contributing to enhancing the project impact in the medium to long term and setting the basis for an improved European sector, which can get the most out of its domestic resources in an effective way. The most important results of this project will be :
- Security of by-product supply.
- 1 patent, a minimum of 10 publications in high-impact journals, 5 PhD-positions during the project, attendance at 6 industrial fairs, 12 abstracts to scientific conferences, and other public events.
- Position the European mineral processing companies in the front-line of by-product recovery technology.
- By-product potential mapping and the development of a toolkit to be used by companies in order to identify potential unexploited resources.
- Broader and higher by-product recovery rates that will lead companies to have a higher impact.
- Reduction of energy consumption with respect to conventional methods, reducing thus its environmental impact as well.
- Promote the expansion of mineral processing companies and, therefore, the creation of new jobs from diverse professional categories.