The long-term availability of mineral resources is crucial in underpinning human society, technological and economic activity, and managing anthropogenic environmental impacts.
When a metal is obtained largely or completely as a by-product, its production is often unable to respond quickly to rapid changes in consumption trends and, as a result, its price can fluctuate widely.
As an example, indium is produced as by-product of zinc. Demand for indium expanded significantly over the past few decades, especially with increased demand for flat panel displays that use indium tin oxide; the primary production of indium thus increased a staggering 1675% from 1975 to 2012, whereas for zinc it increased by a more modest 231% over the same time period. This was only possible because of enhanced recovery of indium from zinc-dominant ore. If such disparities in the demand of the host and companion were to continue, the recovery of indium from zinc ores would need to be further improved. This introduces an additional challenge: for many by-products, there are no reliable estimates of ore reserves or cost-effective technologies to recover them without affecting major commodity production. Hence, to secure supply, there is a need to identify and develop indigenous resources.

Innovative Process

This process is based on the use of innovative, environmentally benign and biodegradable Deep Eutectic Solvents (DES) and an advance electrochemical process for metal recovery as an only step.

Targeted Metals

Targeted metals to be recovered as by-products are within Cu-Ag-Au group: tellurium (Te), selenium (Se), rhenium (Re), and molybdenum (Mo), as well as Critical Raw Materials.

Mapping & Assessment

The process development will be supported by the mapping and assessment of by-product potential in Europe. The achievements will lead to a significant increase in by-product metal availability for EU, thus reducing EU dependency on imports.

ION4RAW objectives

The main objective of Ion4Raw project is to develop a novel and sustainable ionometallurgical process to resource- and cost-effectively recovery of mainly by-products from primary sources (and the main metal in the ore), i.e ores and concentrates following a complete value chain. Others include:

  • Encourage and support by-product recovery by conducting a comprehensive by-product potential identification and assessment
  • Maximise upstream recovery of by-products from primary sources for ionometallurgical processing and minimise the downstream environmental impact
  • Cost-efficiently recover by-products from primary sources through ionometallurgical route
  • Design and optimise the overall process from a holistic point of view following a Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) approach
  • Provide proof of process sustainability from economic, technical and environmental point of view, as well as to promote the exploitation of the project’s results

Objectives (old version)