The 5th episode of Loops returned to the world of raw materials

Held on December 16th, the session gave voice to other two European projects that target the recovery of raw materials as their priority goal. 

The demand for raw materials is rising and is becoming increasingly more difficult to meet. Europe’s access to raw materials is becoming a serious issue, especially when dealing with rare materials such as Tantalum that, because of supply shortage, have to be imported to Europe. To give you a better understanding of the current situation concerning this kind of material, we invited two Horizon 2020 projects that could show us their commitment and dedicated work to devise two ways of addressing the problem, where cutting-edge technology is in the spotlight. 

Veltha would like to introduce you to ION4RAW and TARANTULA, two Horizon 2020 projects that are paving the way for a sustainable recovery of raw materials in mines across Europe. The two projects have thought of novel ways to decrease the demand for raw materials.

.

ION4RAW: The project’s aim is to propose new energy, material, and cost-efficient mineral processing technology to recover by-products from primary sources. Maria Tripiana, the project coordinator, addressed the episode with a fascinating presentation, starting the show by explaining what ION4RAW is all about and the raw materials that the project is attempting to recover. Maria began to talk about the goals and impacts of the project, highlighting technical objectives such as to encourage and support by-product recovery by conducting a comprehensive by-product potential identification and assessment and to cost-efficiently recovering by-products from primary sources through an ionometallurgical route. The ionmetaullurgical route is an interesting method of extraction that focuses on Deep Eutectic Solvent (DES) ionic liquids.

Maria also addressed goals and impacts related to their dissemination and showed the public the proof of the process sustainability from an economic, technical, and environmental point of view. The ION4RAW presentation finished with an outline on how the project wants to push the EU to the forefront in raw materials processing technologies and solutions, to unlock substantial reserves of new or currently unexploited resources within the EU.

.

TARANTULA: The project’s aim is to develop a toolkit of novel, efficient, and flexible metallurgical technologies with high selectivity and recovery rates. The presentation was attended by the project’s exploitation manager Dr. Nader Akil. Nader presented an engaging presentation, first explaining why the initiative chose the raw materials it is recovering and why the commodities are vital to the EU. Nader explains that TARANTULA choose the materials Tungsten, Tantalum, and Niobium, which are three materials that have been classed as critical raw materials (CRMs) by the European Commission. The reason behind Tungsten as it is the highest economic importance of all CRMs, it plays a major role in industrial applications and EU primary production (coming from mines located in Portugal, Spain, Austria) is not enough to cover domestic demand. 

Tantalum was chosen because it is very resistant to wear, corrosion, and heat, according to Nader. One of the key reasons is that the EU imports 100% of Tantalum, primarily from Africa, and TARANTULA hoped to see a reduction in the demand for imports. Niobium was chosen due to it being an essential component of high-strength low-alloy steels. According to Nader over 90% of global demand is covered by three exploited deposits located in Brazil and Canada so with no mining in Europe, TARANTULA discovered small deposits they can recover in.

Nader began to explain the goal of TARANTULA, telling the audience how the goal is to reduce EU dependence on refractory metal imports by valorizing unconventional European resources.

Nader began by discussing the project’s work strategy and how it is collaborating with a large consortium to achieve its objectives, by engaging us with the project’s technologies developed so far and concluding with the project’s primary successes using the raw materials Tungsten, Niobium, and Tantalum.

.

During the Q&A both projects discussed their challenges. Maria explained how the most challenging part of the ION4RAW project was from a technical stance. Nader agreed with Maria, saying that while developing the technology problems arose, explaining how TARANTULA did their best to meet the task. This sparked a discussion about how Covid-19 has impacted their projects, with Maria acknowledging that it has impacted the timeline as well as general workflow because the consortium could only meet online. Fortunately, the first year of the TARANTULA began before the pandemic, but it did cause some delays, such as attendance with lab research, according to Nader. Both projects successfully overcame the hurdles and demonstrated the excellent work being done across Europe.

The webinar concluded with interesting comments about how they are adopting a circular strategy and what they think of the technique of creating a closed-loop system in raw materials and also looking to recycle materials such as Tungsten that have a high recycling input rate. Both projects agreed that the circular approach is the right step towards the future. The usage of primary sources by ION4RAW is assisting them in adapting the technique of a closed-loop system. TARANTULA’s purpose, according to Nader, is to develop an environmentally friendly technology to aid in the recovery of resources, ultimately helping their project use a circular approach. 

Veltha enjoyed having ION4RAW and TARANTULA on our webinar and looks forward to their future developments and goals.

If you enjoyed reading about the episode check out the full episode on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJmMmYdJm9w&t=1s

Stay tuned more information on our upcoming sixth episode of Loops, where we will be inviting Horizon 2020 projects RUSTICA and B-FERST. Join us in a discussion on how both projects are using bio-based solutions to improve the world of agriculture!