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Development of an innovative sustainable strategy for selective biorecover of critical raw materials from Primary and Secondary sources

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BIORECOVER (Development of an innovative sustainable strategy for selective biorecover of critical raw materials from Primary and Secondary sources)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

The objective of BIORECOVER is the R&D of a new sustainable & safe process, essentially based on biotechnology, for selective extraction of a range of Critical Raw Materials, from relevant unexploited secondary & primary sources:
-Rare Earths (REE) from Bauxite Residue (BR)
-Magnesium from Mg wastes of low grade minerals and calcination by-products (MgW)
-Platinum Group Metals from flotation tailings & Platinum Group Minerals process residues
To this end, BIORECOVER will be based on the integration of 3 main stages to reach the expected recovery rates (90%), selectivity (95%) & purity (99%) (TRL from 2-3 to 5):
(1) Remove major impurities in raw materials to achieve greater availability of target metals for their recovery.
(2) Mobilise these metals through specific and improved microorganisms to get a leachate enriched with the target CRMs.
(3) Development of a technology for recovering metals with high selectivity & purity that meet quality requirements for reuse.
Downstream processes will be studied for the reuse of recovered metals (brakes pads, oxygen sensors, powder Mg & catalysts). LCA & LCC and a Decision Making Framework will support these aims. A multidisciplinary consortium covering the whole value chain (from suppliers to end users) is involved, including 14 partners from 7 member states across EU (ES, DK, FR, LE, PT, SE & UK) and effective international cooperation with South Africa.
BIORECOVER concept aims to reduce the gap between the EU supply and demand for CRM providing a breakthrough flexible, versatile and modular alternative, based on three mainly bio-based steps. The scientific advances in the field of biotechnology will allow to exploit primary (MgW and Platinum low-grade ores - PLGO) and secondary raw materials (BR & PGM content byproducts -PCBP), inaccessible by conventional extraction methods.
Moreover, the transmission of the generated knowledge will be a key aspects of the BIORECOVER concept through effective actions such as conferences, seminars, workshops, publications in high impact journals, reports to feed the Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) . Finally, improvement of the awareness, trust and acceptance by relevant actors and general public on the importance of raw materials and its EU supply, will be crucial for project success, and will be addressed through an awareness campaign as part of dissemination and public perception studies towards novel BIORECOVER process
The sources of raw materials were characterised and research & optimisation of conditioning procedures (WP1) were performed for BR, MgW and PGM taking into account the requirements from WP2 and WP3, that are being developed in parallel to enable synergies and to improve the optimisation of both processes. In RP1, the activities in this WPs have focused on the study of the microbial community composition of the raw materials and isolation of microbial consortia. Preliminary work on optimization has also been conducted. Culturable bacteria from raw materials were identified and characterized. Both single microorganisms and consortia have been tested to remove interferent components and to dissolve target CRMs (REE, Mg, Pt). Almost all the recovery strategies were tested in synthetic solutions containing the CRMs. Further downstream processing of the extracted CRMs will be studied in the next reporting periods (WP6). Modelling of the single steps is being carried out to maximise the performance in all the steps of the strategy for the biological recovery of CRMs (WP2-WP4). The ‘end users’ perspective, key liaison between CRM recovery and marketability, is addressed in WP6 that started in the first year and has focused on definition of the requirements for the final products validation.To ensure a safe and healthy working environment in the whole process, both specific risk assessment methodology and H&S analysis (WP7) are being carried out. Along this period, the risk assessment methodology was a selected and the Activities related with Health and Safety started. Dissemination and communication activities are covered in WP8. An Exploitation Plan will support and accelerate BIORECOVER technology market uptake. Collaborative work between LGI and the partners is being done to tailor business models for each partner. An IPR strategy is also being designed. Furthermore, BIORECOVER is in close communication with the EU RMIS and the project has been included in the Knowledge Gateway. Project Coordination is covered in WP9. During RP1, the main activities have been the Kick-off meeting and regular consortium meetings (M8 and M13). In between the meetings, the coordinator works in close contact with the WP leaders and with each partner to follow their activities, anticipate and prevent risks or deviations, and to prepare the deliverables, reports and presentations. Ethics requirements were analysed in WP10. Information on the safety and environmental risks was gathered and a register considering the different material transfers between partners has been created.
-BIORECOVER will have a high impact in innovative research fields on sustainable raw materials processing through the generation of cutting-edge knowledge. The know-how created is expected to generate at least 11 patents, 29 Scientific Publications in high impact journals, 1 Joint public-private publications, 41 Workshops, Seminars & Summer Schools & Conferences and 22 other measures such as PhD thesis, etc. The project consortium will strongly contribute to strengthen the EU raw materials knowledge base – feeding the relevant results into the RMIS .
-BIORECOVER flexible and modular approach will broad significantly the range of CRMs extraction, covering up to five (LREE, HREE, Sc, Mg&PGM) of the 27 listed by UE, representing 19%, a very wide scope of elements.
-Through BIORECOVER – higher material-efficiency, low energy and water consumption, as well as “Zero Liquid Discharge”, and flexible & modular solution – the effectiveness of the process will increase, hence the economic impact, reducing capital expenditure, operational and maintenance costs. A reduction of 35% at economical level is expected to be achieved with respect to current processes
-A key impact in the long term arising from BIORECOVER will be the benefit for EU industry associated with Raw Materials, due to the high-performance of the integrated process for biomining proposed – processing, refining, equipment manufactures & CRM end-user industries will be directly impacted. BIORECOVER covers the whole value chain of Raw Materials Industry and it will improve its competitiveness, enabling the achievement a high impact in terms of creating added value and new jobs. The total direct job creation during the project is expected to be 20 people, and, in a five years’ time, the forecast for new green jobs is estimated in a range of 52 people
-Risk, health and safety will be improved during the whole BIORECOVER cycle: 90% reduction on Health & Safety & Risk, 90% reduction on Waste & Wastewater, 60% reduction in GHG emissions and 90% recovery of resources from generated waste in comparison to traditional extraction processes.
-The BIORECOVER solution supports the implementation of SDG12, Responsible Production and Consumption, contributes to the Strategic Implementation Plan of the EIP on Raw Materials and Circular Economy and improves public awareness, acceptance and trust in theraw materials sectors.