On the 20th of October, Loops webinar returned to kick off Season II! 

Do you want to dive into the ground-breaking world of innovation? That’s exactly what Loops is for! 

For this episode of Loops we wanted to dive into the world of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), in light of an ever-growing need for them and the increasingly urgent need of innovative circular projects to secure this demand.

Veltha is delighted to introduce you to SEArcularMine and RECOPPs, two Horizon 2020 projects doing inspiring work in the recovery of Critical Raw Materials. Both projects work on the recovery of different CRMs with innovative methods but with the same goal of a sustainable future.

As the world advances with technology and development, the demand for CRMs is increasing. So, what is currently happening at the high floors of innovation to tackle the precarious amount of these valuable resources? 

Come with us to discover two outstanding projects that have identified a common solution: a circular economy approach. 

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SEArcularMine: a project aimed at designing a sustainable circular approach to mineral extraction. Dr. Andrea Cipollina, the coordinator of the project, started his presentation by explaining how the project builds on the ancient and still widely used process of saltworks, where seawater goes through natural evaporation and crystallization in shallow basins. While completing the process within the saltworks, a resulting brine is discovered which is called Britten which contains valuable trace elements. These trace elements are then extracted in the process. This is where SEArcularMINE contributes to the challenge. As explained, the project will create three technologies that will contribute to securing access to CRMs through a circular approach.

In 2011 the European Commission released a list of 14 CRMs that they believe are critical and in need of recovery. Every 3 years since then they have added more. As 2020 30 CRMs currently exist on the list. SEArcularMINE contributes to this list with a number of elements being recovered during the process. Creating technologies to recover magnesium, lithium, and other trace elements, ultimately helping decrease the demand. 

SEArcularMINE’s circular process as discussed in the presentation by Dr. Cipollina will utilise waste streams and current infrastructure, minimise environmental and physical impacts. The circular process will contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Blue Growth, and the Circular Economy Action Plan.

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RECOPPs: The project began from an initial investigation that was carried out by Dr. Patricia Cordoba Sola, the coordinator of the project after conveying a study of the Atlantic Copper-Huelva Smelter Flowsheet. After a close investigation at the facility, through the process of deciding on what CRMs to recover, RECOPPs found the added raw materials of bismuth and antimony to be the most worthwhile. As the demand for these raw materials was seen throughout Europe and the world, RECOPPs saw large amounts of tonnes of these materials that could have been generated.

So RECOPPs saw the demand for the raw materials and by seeing the large amounts of residues and by-products from the raw materials they chose. RECOPPs then wanted to find the solution. By working together with a number of partners RECOOPs hope to decrease the demand, protect the environment by treating hazardous materials and create a new revenue stream based on the circularity of resources.

As both projects showed interest in each other expressing their curiosity in the Q&A, we found the projects to similar but also very different in many ways.

Both projects are in the early stages of their research and development, both with the same goal of promoting circularity and sustainability. We here at Veltha look forward to their progression and will stay up to date with their developments.