By Products Critical Raw Materials Mineral Processing Technology Mining Raw Materials Sustainable Ionometallurgy

Exploring Sustainable Metal Electrodeposition: ION4RAW Partner at ECS Conference

ION4RAW Partner Gøril Jahrsengene from SINTEF, attended the ECS Conference in Gothenburg last month. This global event drew a remarkable 3,200 attendees and featured a diverse program of 2,427 talks and 1,381 student abstracts. Gøril Jahrsengene made a noteworthy contribution with her presentation titled “Electrochemical Investigations of Ag and Bi in Choline Chloride-Ethylene Glycol DES Electrolyte.”

Her presentation was part of the “Metal Electrodeposition from Fundamentals to Applications” symposium, in the session “Beyond Water.” To explore further details of her work, you can access the abstract and additional information on the ECS Conference website.

Our partner’s active participation at this event reflects the ION4RAW project’s commitment to advancing knowledge and promoting collaboration in the field of raw materials research. Stay tuned for more updates on our ongoing efforts to change the industry.

By Products Critical Raw Materials Mineral Processing Technology Mining Raw Materials Sustainable Ionometallurgy

Discover The Work ION4RAW: Up-scaling and demo validation

The ION4RAW project funded by the European Union is investigating innovative recovery processes of metals from different kinds of minerals. The metals of interest are so called “critical raw materials” (CRM) which are globally uneven distributed and mostly imported into the EU. To exploit deposits located within the EU and recover those metals form already processed minerals the ION4RAW project uses deep eutectic solvents (DES) to leach the metals out of ores and minerals. DES are new and environmentally friendly leaching agents made up of organic compounds in contrast to classic water-based leaching agents like acids and bases.

During work package 6 of the ION4RAW project partners from Germany, Italy, Norway and Spain teamed up to transfer the ION4RAW process established in the lab scale to be performed in a pilot plant build, operated and validated at tecnalia research & innovation facilities in Spain. TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany, investigated the up-scaling of the process to the medium scale prior to setting up the pilot plant which will be able to process up to 100 L. Working in a jacketed glass reactor of 15 L, displayed in figure 1, suited for that kind of leaching experiments the researchers were able validate the parameters for the process and maintain a high recovery rate of the metals.

Figure 1: Jacketed glass reactor with DES left and during the metal leaching right.

SINTEF in Norway analysed the deposition of the leached metals in solution by applying electrical current for the recovery of pure metals. The Italian partners of RINA Consulting Centro Sviluppo Materiali will evaluate the metals produced during the process in regard to purity and use in commercial products. In the end of the ION4RAW process and products will be validated and evaluated by IDENER in Spain.



Researchers found out that the ION4RAW process can be carried out in a higher processing rate suitable to be performed in early industry applications. Metals of interest like antimony, bismuth or tellurium all of which are important for high-technology products are recovered in high rates from the starting material.

The greatest challenge faced during the up-scaling process was to dissipate the heat produced during leaching. This challenge arises from the different ratios in which volume and surface area change during scale-up. The processed amount of material is in contact with a much lower surface area in large equipment in respect to small lab scale experiments. Therefore, the heat produced can´t be dissipated in such good ways which makes utilisation of sophisticated cooling equipment and agents essential for successful metal recovery.

In the future the ION4RAW process will be applied to other minerals and secondary raw materials like slags from metal production to increase possible application fields of this innovative process. The process should be further optimised and adapted that a broad variety of metals can be recovered and used for production which are currently not recovered for different kinds of mineral deposits and are lost to tailings or landfill. In this way the ION4RAW project will contribute to more environmentally friendly and holistic recovery of metals that are of high importance for industries, consumers and the society in general alike.

In order to develop and evaluate the ION4RAW process on samples from different kind of resources typology and respective mineralogy, five ore deposits were selected and sampled with help of the mining operators: Cobre Las Cruces and El Valle Boinás ore deposits in Spain, Cononish gold mine which is the only active gold mine in Scotland, Cerro Lindo and El Porvenir ore deposits in Peru. Between 300 kg and 7 tons of each bulk ore, totalizing 22.7 tons of material, were sampled during the first year of the project and distributed to ION4RAW partners. Sub-sampling and pre-treatment of the samples for the lab analyses are described in a public report[3].

Author: Ben Ebersbach

By Products Critical Raw Materials Mineral Processing Technology Mining Raw Materials Sustainable Ionometallurgy

Discover The Work ION4RAW: A Focus On By-Products Potential Evaluation

WP2 is entitled « By-products potential evaluation » and involved 6 partners of the ION4RAW project and 3 mining operators. It aimed at displaying an extensive and comprehensive evaluation of by-products potential – Bi, Co, Ge, In, Mo, Pt, Re, Sb, Se, Te,  – in Au-Ag, Cu and Cu-Au deposits. Most of these by-product elements belong to the 2020 EU Critical Raw Materials List. Very little data exist about their possible recovery because exploitation and exploration projects mainly focus on the main commodities for economic evaluation.

Location of most favorable areas for epithermal deposits in Europe with higher statistical potential to have enrichment in Sb, Bi, Te, Ge, Se and In (kernel density map)

The first task of WP2 was to produce a geographically-based compilation of the selected by-products occurrences and their relative potential in known European occurrences. The DataBase Querying (DBQ) approach was applied on the historical European Promine dataset. Several areas of great interest for prospection of the targeted by-products of the various mining projects and geological entities were determined. It allows potential identification of commodities, which are either rarely reported in analyses or through divers permit/deposit reports by mining companies. This work may encourage mining operators to search for these rare elements in their deposits / prospects which are located in high potential areas, whereas they are not currently researched. The results are described in detail in a public report[1] and published in a scientific article[2]. They also served as inputs for WP8 to create the Decision Support System.

In order to develop and evaluate the ION4RAW process on samples from different kind of resources typology and respective mineralogy, five ore deposits were selected and sampled with help of the mining operators: Cobre Las Cruces and El Valle Boinás ore deposits in Spain, Cononish gold mine which is the only active gold mine in Scotland, Cerro Lindo and El Porvenir ore deposits in Peru. Between 300 kg and 7 tons of each bulk ore, totalizing 22.7 tons of material, were sampled during the first year of the project and distributed to ION4RAW partners. Sub-sampling and pre-treatment of the samples for the lab analyses are described in a public report[3].

This Back-scattered electron (BSE) image gives evidence of molybdenite (Mo) grains associated with apatite (Apa) in the garnet (Grt) gangue.

After that, a comprehensive characterisation of the ores was necessary to assist the other WP in understanding the link between the ore mineral composition and the potential metal recovery at each step of the ore processing, and optimize process yield. The challenge was to detect and quantify the targeted by-products as they are distributed in highly disseminated trace minerals and in low concentrations among the main ore minerals compared to the main commodities.

Geochemical and mineralogical characterization of the ore samples was performed using multi-scale characterization techniques: whole rock chemistry, X-Ray Diffraction, scanning electron microscopy (SEM and automated mineralogy techniques), micro-X-Ray fluorescence, electron probe microanalyses (EPMA), laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (LA-ICP-MS). Quantifying all the chemical elements (major, minor and traces) within various ore matrix (massive sulphidic ores or within silicate and carbonate gangue minerals ) is not possible with one single method. Thus, several methods have been applied and adapted to each specific ore-rock samples and respective metal contents and detection limits, depending on the research targeted element, their relative concentrations and their ability to recover them from the solid or solution with the various lab apparatus. The full characterization of each ore sample is described in a confidential report[4], restricted to project partners and the mining operators for strategic and economic reasons.

Micrographs in reflected light of the main galena (Gn)-pyrite (Py)-chalcopyrite (Cpy)-sphalerite (Sph)  ore assemblage with late marcasite replacing garnet. Chalcopyrite essentially occurs as inclusions in sphalerite.

Geochemical and mineralogical characterization served as input for the Life Cycle assessment (WP7). Moreover, the amenability to recover by-products from mineral processing was determined by automated quantitative microscopy analyses using Qemscan and TIMA-X scanning electron microscopic systems. These techniques are applied regularly in the mining industry to quantify the mineralogy of the ore feed and products and it allows understanding the comprehensive deportment of the minerals hosting the targeted by-products. The mineralogical deportment of by-product was statistically analysed as mineral associations, respective form and particle-size distribution of by-product bearing species and assessment of their potential liberation during mineral processing. The results obtained within this task are presented as well in a confidential report[5].

This BSE image shows a pyrite grain where laser ablation was carried out: the holes represent the laser impacts with quite regular morphologies.

Results obtained by WP2 first give to the main stakeholders the areas of interest regarding the targeted by-products. Furthermore, they provide support for the processing industry through assessing the mineralogical deportment of by-products in deferent kind of ores. The methodology applied may be useful to qualify the efficiency of the mineral pre-treatment and will help to predict the potential recovery after hydrometallurgy and DES assays  by comparing the initial ore solid composition with the concentrates and waste compositions after extraction for example or at the successive steps of the process.

[1] Gourcerol B., Bertrand G., Bailly L., Moreau P., Duhamel-Achin I., Négrel P., Warscheid W. (2020), Mapping of by-product potential in mineral deposits – D2.1 ION4RAW H2020 project Grant 815748

[2] Gourcerol B., Bertrand G., Bailly L., Moreau P., Duhamel-Achin I., Picault M., Négrel P. (2022) Predictive assessment of metallogenic signatures using the DataBase Querying (DBQ) method : A European application – Journal of Geochemical Exploration 236

[3] Moreau P., Gourcerol B., Duhamel-Achin I., Delchini S., Négrel P., Warscheid W., Sangster C., Sánchez Ruiz F., Álvarez Cifuentes R., (2020) Technical note and methodology guide for sampling and sample preparation – D2.2 ION4RAW H2020 project Grant 815748

[4] Moreau P., Lerouge C., Bailly L., Gourcerol B., Duhamel-Achin I., Maubec N., Wille G., Lach P., Sangster C., Warscheid W., Álvarez Cifuentes R., Sánchez Ruiz F. (2022) – Chemical and mineralogical characterisation of by- product in target ores – D2.3 ION4RAW H2020 project Grant 815748

[5] Moreau P., Duhamel-Achin I., Bodenan F., Lerouge C. (2023) – Assessment of by- product endowment and metallurgical availability – D2.4 ION4RAW H2020 project Grant 815748

Author: Pauline Moreau

By Products Critical Raw Materials Mineral Processing Technology Mining Raw Materials Sustainable Ionometallurgy

Exploring Sustainable Mineral Extraction: Insights from the first in person ION4RAW Consortium meeting.

The ION4RAW consortium recently convened in Freiberg, Germany, for their first in-person meeting, marking an important step towards a more sustainable future. This gathering brought together experts and researchers committed to shifting mineral extraction practices and promoting the responsible use of raw materials.

During the three productive days, the consortium members engaged in fruitful discussions, sharing valuable insights and updates on the progress of their work packages. This in person meeting allowed for fruitful discussions and research collaborations, enabling the exchange of ideas and the alignment of efforts towards the project’s common goals.

The highlight of the meeting was the consortium’s visit to Freiberg’s metal mine, an enlightening experience that showcased the innovative practices employed for mineral extraction, the ongoing experiments conducted on-site, and the range of metals being extracted. Witnessing the operations first-hand underscored the significance of responsible mining and the crucial role it plays in achieving a greener and more environmentally conscious future.

The ION4RAW project recognizes the pressing need for a paradigm shift in mineral extraction, aiming to develop innovative techniques that reduce environmental impact while ensuring the efficient utilization of raw materials. By combining expertise from various fields, the consortium strives to unlock new possibilities and drive the transition towards a more sustainable and resource-efficient society. Through ongoing research, development, and collaboration, the ION4RAW consortium seeks to pioneer breakthrough solutions that will help preserve our planet’s precious resources for generations to come.

The TU Freiberg International Centre deserves special recognition for hosting the consortium and providing an ideal platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration.

As the project continues to make significant strides towards sustainable mineral extraction, stay tuned for more updates on the work being done by the ION4RAW consortium.

Mineral Processing Technology

ION4RAW presented at the Reactive Metals Workshop at MIT

Since 2006, a workshop on reactive metals processing, most often called Reactive Metals Workshop, or RMW, has been organized yearly by collaboration between universities in the US, mainly Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and universities in Japan, primarily the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS) at the University of Tokyo. After a break due to the pandemic, many signed up for the first workshop since 2020, the 16th ever RMW, and about 60 participants accepted the invitation to attend and found their way to MIT March 24-25, 2023.

During the two-day workshop, eight invited speakers from universities in Japan, USA, Norway and Iceland took to the floor on subjects like novel type batteries, metal production, processing and recycling. Lively discussions on the subjects continued between all participants after each presentation, in the breaks, and during the poster session. In attendance were mainly researchers, professors and graduate students from the scientific community, while some with an industrial background also attended.

Picture 1. Attendes at RMW16.

main event during RMW is the poster session. During this time, everyone attending is given a chance to contribute to the event by presenting their work. First, everyone is given the opportunity to have a short 3-minute pitch in front of everyone, to present their research and give a reason for continued elaboration and discussion during the active poster session. During the poster session everyone, also the attendees presenting posters, are allowed to walk around and speak to each other regarding the research presented. A total of 18 posters were presented at RMW16.

ION4RAW was presented in the workshop with participation from SINTEF. SINTEF has during the project worked with electrochemical recovery of the targeted metals through electrochemical deposition, and participated with a poster titled: “Electrochemical Recovery of Au and Ag from Ore Deposits using Innovative Deep Eutectic Solvent Ionic Liquids”.

Picture 2. Gøril Jahrsengene(SINTEF) presentation

Picture 3. Gøril (SINTEF) in front of her poster.

The poster covered results regarding electrochemical characterization of the suggested electrochemical systems focusing on targeted elements, Au and Ag, as well Cu and Fe that is also going to be present in the electrolyte in the ION4RAW process. During the 3-minute pitch, SINTEF also showed a picture of a wire completely covered in what visually appeared to be gold, obtained after an experiment using an electrolyte where mine waste had been leached. Ending the pitch with an open question regarding this deposit: “Is it really gold and were we able to recover it electrochemically?”, made sure many of the participants stopped at the poster afterwards, to discuss the results, the ION4RAW process, and general use of DES in metal recovery.

Besides the main event of the poster session, the workshop is viewed as an excellent opportunity to network. Allowing for frequent and informal breaks throughout both days, an evening banquet with pre-drinks networking in the evening, and a lab tour in the MIT labs and buildings (ending in the famous library dome), it was a great opportunity to present the ION4RAW project, results from the electrochemical recovery task, and network on this and possible new projects.

Picture 4. Recovered Au and Ag.

Mineral Processing Technology

TARANTULA Clustering Event: Conclusions on Social License to Operate in the Mining and Life Cycle Assessment Methodologies for (re)processing of low-grade primary and secondary resources

The mining sector is unquestionably crucial for Europe’s economic growth and the development of various industries, including green and digital technologies. However, as emphasised at the end of the event by Prof. Juan Maria Menendez Aguado from University de Oviedo Mining and Minerals Engineering, mining activities are often associated with environmental and social challenges, leading to conflicts with local communities, and potentially jeopardising the Social License to Operate (SLO). Despite Europe’s high environmental standards for raw material production, the harvesting of primary and secondary resources of critical raw materials (CRMs) is imminent and requires regaining the trust of European citizens and policymakers.

Insights and Highlights from the Panel Discussions and Roundtables

On 19 April, the International Centre for Advanced Materials and Raw Materials (ICAMCyl) organised a cluster event on behalf of the TARANTULA EU-funded project which is expected to reach its final stages in November 2023. The workshop brought together mining projects and companies, and included two panel discussions and a round table that highlighted various aspects of SLO methodologies and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in the mining sector. The event took a holistic approach to modern mining processes, providing insights on more than just technical aspects relevant to SLO and LCA. Discussions emphasised the importance of implementing sustainable and responsible mining practices that balance economic, social, and environmental concerns. Additionally, there was emphasis on the importance of engaging with local communities and governments to build trust and support for mining activities.

ION4RAW, represented by Mathilde Legay (LGI), participated in the roundtable discussing how EU-funded projects are tackling the SLO aspect during the development phase, but also in the panel discussion focusing on the LCA methodology and the impact categories, such as climate change, metal depletion, freshwater ecotoxicity and eutrophication, and human toxicity.

The Technological Park of Leon (ESP) hosted the event, which provided an opportune context to share the results of a study conducted within one of ION4RAW’s sister-project’s – BIORECOVER. The study carried out by ENSO and LGI revealed the social perception of the mining sector in Spain, France and Greece and the need to educate people about the importance of mining activities. Despite certain concerns, around 50% of the interviewed participants were in favour of opening more mines in Spain to reduce the global environmental impacts, improve working conditions for miners, and create more job opportunities for various regions. The study was complemented by a detailed presentation of the public awareness campaign run by ION4RAW, which aims to communicate about the use of raw materials in daily life and showcase the essential usage of CRMs in key sectors. LGI initiated an  awareness campaign, including impactful attractive visuals, animated videos, social media cards, followed by quizzes and online contests, which was well-received by the European Commission’s reviewers, but also by the project’s online communities.

During the latter part of the event, ION4RAW presented the initial findings and hypotheses derived from applying the LCA methodology in the project. The focus was on assessing the environmental impact of using Deep Eutectic Solvents (DES) in ION4RAW, with preliminary results indicating that the synthesis of DES and the concentration of additives are associated with the climate change and freshwater ecotoxicity impacts.

The EU projects TARANTULA, ION4RAW, MADITRACE, S34I and PASSENGER presented their findings, which were complemented by  two presentations from leading mining companies in Europe – operating the Penouta Sn, Ta and Nb mine (ESP), respectively the Barruecopardo Mine (ESP). The companies presented key aspects that contribute to a positive SLO, emphasizing the importance of restoring the environment, improving the economic situation of the mining area and the surrounding areas, creating employment opportunities, and providing training to local communities.

The Workshop in Figures

The cluster event organised by the TARANTULA project attracted a diverse range of stakeholders, including research institutions (62%), mining and manufacturing companies (23.81%), consultancy firms (9.52%), and trade unions (4.76%). The event had an audience of nearly 25 participants from different countries, with most attendees being from Spain, followed by Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, and Austria.

In conclusion, the TARANTULA clustering event was a valuable platform for sharing insights and experiences, and it highlighted the essential role of the mining sector in the development of various industries. It is crucial to ensure that mining activities are carried out sustainably and with the support of local communities and the public.

Mineral Processing Technology

Recovering critical raw materials

Minerals such as antimony, germanium, and indium play an integral role in many modern technologies and devices. These critical raw materials are essential components in everything from smartphones to solar panels, and demand for them is only increasing. However, traditional mining and extraction methods can have significant environmental impacts, making it increasingly important to develop sustainable and responsible approaches to raw materials production.

This is where the ION4RAW project comes in. The project is focused on developing new, more sustainable methods to recover critical raw materials and metals from mining sites. Led by coordinator Maria Tripiana, the team is working to identify and optimize environmentally-friendly approaches that minimize waste and reduce the use of harmful chemicals.

Excitingly, the ION4RAW project has just been featured in the latest issue of the EU Research magazine. Readers can learn more about the project’s innovative approach to raw materials production by checking out pages 52, 53, and 80 of the magazine.

Have a look at our piece in the magazine below!

Critical Raw Materials Mining Raw Materials

A look back: ION4RAW’s Participation in the Biorecover Seminar Series

In March 2023, the H2020 BIORECOVER project organized an online seminar series in collaboration with several European projects, including ION4RAW, EIS, AfricaMaVal, and SCRREEN2. The seminars delved into the pressing issue of raw materials and their pivotal role in the global energy transition, which poses significant challenges to our world today.

Europe’s heavy reliance on raw materials for its growth, competitiveness, and transition to a greener economy makes it imperative to establish and maintain sustainable supply chains for raw materials. However, the current scale of unlocking unexploited ore reserves falls short of meeting the demand. Therefore, innovative and transformative strategies are needed to develop environmentally and socially sustainable raw material value chains that align with Europe’s climate, security, and economic ambitions.

The webinar series comprised of three seminars, each addressing a distinct aspect of raw materials sustainability. The first seminar on “Establishing responsible global partnerships” took place on 7th March 2023. It was followed by a second webinar focused on “Improving the sustainability of critical raw materials extraction” on 9th March 2023. Finally, the last webinar on “Researching unexploited European reserves” took place on 15th March 2023. ION4RAW took part in both the second and final webinar which provided a platform for leading experts to share their experiences and insights, shedding light on the opportunities and challenges in developing sustainable raw material value chains.

The ION4RAW project is proud to have been part of this important seminar series and looks forward to continuing collaboration with other projects and stakeholders to drive positive change in the raw materials sector.

Mineral Processing Technology

The Effect of Macroscopic Particle Features on Mineral Dissolution

New publication by ION4RAW authors Chandra Widyananda Winardhi, Jose Ricardo da Assuncao Godinho and Jens Gutzmer (HZDR). Discover the article in detail with a focus on mineral dissolution. 

Mineral dissolution is a dynamic process in which kinetics depend on the reactive surface area, orientation, and geometry of the dissolving mineral grain. Dissolution rate is, thus, not represented by a single value, but rather, by a spectrum that is affected by the reactivity of different types of surface features.

Such dissolution rate spectra are usually obtained by very detailed studies of perfectly cleaved surfaces by atomic force microscopy or in situ studies, such as flow-through experiments. This study visualizes dissolution progress by repeated X-ray computed tomography scans of a single particle. This allows studying the influence of larger particle features, such as corners and edges, at the interception of macroscopic faces of particles, as well as the influence of those macroscopic features on the dissolution rate spectra. As a suitable case study, the dissolution of a monomineralic galena (PbS) particle in ethaline is studied.

The observed changes in particle geometry are evaluated using a newly developed empirical model in order to break down the rate spectra as a function of the particle geometry. Results illustrate that dissolution rates are exponentially correlated with the distance to crystal corners and edges. The reactivity map generated from these exponential relations shows a linear trendline with the dissolution rates over the entire surface of the studied galena particle.

The empirical reactivity map developed here opens the possibility of predicting the dissolution rate of particulate materials based on computed tomography and the optimal geometrical properties of the particles that maximize the dissolution, e.g., size and shape.

Raw Materials

ION4RAW raw materials awareness campaign: RawMaterials4Future Quiz

This year’s Raw Materials Week took place from 14 to 18 November 2022. This week was an opportunity for raw materials related projects to be creative and that is why the SCRREEN project, in collaboration with the ION4RAW, AfricaMaVal, Biorecover and PEACOC projects and the PROMETIA Association created the RawMaterials4Future Quiz to engage with a public that was already familiar with the concept of raw materials. But the quiz was also an opportunity for people without much knowledge of raw materials to learn more about them and their criticallity.

The quiz was launched on 14 November along with social media posts to better engage with the audience.

With over 100 particpants, the first 10 winners were rewarded with Guillaume Pitron’s Rare Metals War: the dark side of clean energy and digital technologies. 

Interested in re-living the experience? Questions from the RawMaterials4Future Quiz are now available on our website. Test your knowledge now!

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