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REDMUD Report Summary

Project ID: 636876
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REDMUD (European Training Network for Zero-waste Valorisation of Bauxite Residue (Red Mud))

Reporting period: 2014-12-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

To tackle its (critical) raw material dependency, Europe needs comprehensive strategies based on sustainable primary mining, substitution and recycling. Freshly produced flows and stocks of landfilled industrial residues, such as bauxite residue (BR: a by-product of Al production), can provide major amounts of critical metals and, concurrently, minerals for low-carbon building materials. This is self-evident considering the present BR production level in the EU is > 5 Mtonnes/year whereas the cumulative stockpiled level is staggering > 200 Mtonnes (dry matter). BR is a huge secondary source for critical raw materials which are considered key to the clean technologies of tomorrow (electric cars, wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, etc), and hence highly valuable for the European economy, modern technology and environment. The increasing demand for raw materials, their price volatility (e.g. rare-earth elements (REEs)) and the market distortions imposed by some countries, confront Europe with a number of challenges, along the entire raw materials value chain.

Overall objectives and Challenges
REDMUD trains 15 early stage researchers in the science and technology of BR valorisation. The project investigates innovative, eco-friendly and integrated methods for the metal recovery, while valorising the residuals into building materials. An intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration of EU-leading institutes and scientists has been established, which covers the full value chain: from BR to recovered metals and new building materials. Research challenges include the development of efficient extraction of Fe, Al, Ti, and rare earths (incl. Sc) from distinct (NORM classified) BRs and the preparation of new building materials with higher than usual Fe content. Those trained researchers become the much needed scientists and engineers for the growing European critical raw materials industry.

REDMUD draws its talents from 9 Beneficiaries, including 6 Research Institutes (KU Leuven (coordinator), UHelsinki, RWTH Aachen, KTH, NTUA, UTartu) and 3 Companies (MEAB, Aluminium of Greece, Titan). Concurrently, REDMUD is strengthened with 4 additional Partner Organisations (UPatras, UAveiro, Bay Zoltan, Szikkti Labor) as well as an Advisory Board.

REDMUD contains 7 WPs, 4 of which are Research Activities:
WP1: Fe and Al removal from BR
WP2: Ti and REEs removal from BR
WP3: Cementitious binders from BR
WP4: LCA, NORM and characterisation of bauxite ores and residues
WP5: Training
WP6: Exploitation, dissemination and outreach
WP7: Management

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Results so far are very promising and have covered: (a) carbothermic reduction, microwave-assisted reduction and direct electro-reduction for Fe recovery; (b) an eco-friendly, optimised Al recovery process; (c) a leaching process to selectively recover Ti and REEs (incl. Sc); (d) methods of process intensification to improve leaching of minor and trace metals; (e) processes to recover metals by supported ionic liquid phases, inorganic ion exchangers or selective precipitation; (f) methods to synthesise Fe-rich, low-carbon cements with novel properties; (g) methodology on the fate of different BR elements in the valorization flowsheet(s); (h) advanced radiological assessment methods on the reuse of BR NORM residues as building material; (i) a comprehensive LCA analysis for the REDMUD valorisation flow sheets, integrating risk assessment; (j) a framework that integrates NORM into the LCA methodology.

These outcomes are communicated in the scientific, industrial and policymaking community, through the project's dedicated website ( and conferences (BR2015 in Leuven and upcoming BR2018 in Athens, its 3-days summer school in 2016, peer-reviewed papers, technical brochures, the LinkedIn Red Mud Project group as well as other social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Moreover, newsletters are sent periodically, including policy briefs for European (and national) policy makers. Other initiatives, e.g. the workshop of the Aluminium Innovation Hub, on the 31st of May 2016, at KU Leuven, or the KIC Raw Materials idea camp/matching event on 21-22 of September 2016, at Aughinish, are also contributing in the overall impact by facilitating the distribution of the results and by shaping a community around BR valorisation.

Based on the above, and a number of findings to be communicated in the forthcoming year, a portfolio of creative and novel processes is put forward. These highly skilled scientists and engineers, are expected to tackle the barriers and develop closed-loop, environmentally-friendly, recovery flow sheets.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

In terms of impact, the project contributes to the policy objectives outlined in the Raw Materials Initiative, the call for a new EIT KIC on Raw Materials and the Strategic Innovation Agenda of the EIP on Raw Materials. Furthermore, as the recovered minerals are used to produce low-carbon binders that may partly replace carbon-intensive Portland cement, REDMUD contributes to lowering the EU’s climate footprint. Based on the process developed in the work of one of the REDMUD researchers, and complementary work outside the project, a proposal called RECOVER was granted by the EIT-KIC, to upscale the process. In addition to the above, the project leads to new recommendations for the strategic orientation of the EU’s Raw Materials Policy and the associated Directives. Actions have been taken in that direction and the first results are:

• The European Aluminium held in the premises of KU Leuven a workshop of the Aluminium Innovation Hub, on the 31st of May 2016. The scope was to coordinate research groups and efforts in Europe and streamline activities towards specific H2020 programs. A number of REDMUD partners where present and had a lecture demonstrating their work.
• Aughinish hosted a KIC Raw Materials idea camp/matching event on 21-22 of September, 2016. The theme was industrial residues with a strong emphasis on bauxite residue. A REDMUD researcher presented work running in the project and bridges were created with the biggest BR produced in Europe, as well as, Irish authorities.

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