#12 | European projects recovering metal(loid)s in the mining and metallurgic industry to be used as secondary critical raw materials

By Lidia Fernández-Rojo and Carlos Echevarría (Cetaqua)

Since 2011, the Raw Materials Initiative (RMI) has been publishing a EU’s list of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) that are considered strategic to the EU’s economy and that have high supply risk because the current source is from Non-EU countries. This list is evaluated and updated every three years. Last publication was in 2020 [1] and comprised a total of 30 materials, 21 of which were metals or metalloids. In this regard, wastewaters from mining or metallurgical industries represent an opportunity to recover high levels of metal(loid)s which can be injected back into the economy as secondary raw materials, applying circular economy schemes. In this framework, there are some European research projects aiming, inter alia, at recovering metal(loid)s from waste effluents. Below, four recently funded projects, in which CETAQUA is involved, are presented:

The RESiLEX Horizon Europe project, launched in 2022, has the objective of demonstrating different technological and business innovative solutions covering the full silicon value chain in order to contribute to improving the resilience and sustainability of this critical raw material value chain in Europe. In addition, the project is demonstrating new waste treatment trains to recover other metal(loid)s such as Co, In, Cu and Rare Earth Elements (REE) which are employed in strategic sectors such as renewable energy, mobility or aerospace. Similarly, the LIFE Remine Water project aims at transforming some of the current mining processes into circular ones by developing a system that allows water reuse and recovery of by-products such as Cu, Zn. The REECOVERY EIT project shares the analogous goal of developing innovative resource recovery treatment trains to recover valuable raw materials but in this case chemical wastes from other industries are employed as input material, an example of industrial symbiosis and circular economy. 

Beyond the objective of metal(loid) recovery, the METALLICO Horizon Europe project, started in 2023, is developing an open-source digital platform in which critical and battery metal(loid) sources (primary and secondary) are identified and characterized to help industries and administrations prioritize, upscale and invest in new mining and metal(loid) recovery plants, unlocking substantial reserves of new or currently unexploited/underexploited resources within the EU, guaranteeing their availability to boost the green transition.


Source: European Commission


[1]  G. A. Blengini et al., Study on the EU’s list of Critical Raw Materials (2020) Final Report. 2020.