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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Classification of secondary resources and slope stability key to making existing and future mining waste disposal sites safe and productive

Objectives of the commitment

The first aim of this commitment is to develop the methodology for classifying the mineral content and exploitation potential of mining waste disposal sites, and – in connection with this - develop a toolbox for classifying these sites to facilitate environmental and societal impact as well as economic value assessment. This will help identify recovery or other compound-based uses from this waste and drive market uptake. The second aim of this commitment is to develop novel approaches to the design of new waste disposal sites and the maintenance of existing sites so as to prevent and/or mitigate slope stability problems which can lead to disaster. By accomplishing these R&D actions, EU businesses will be in a much better position to design safer, sustainable waste disposal facilities which can be maintained AND exploited.

Description of the activities

If the EU is to move toward a waste-efficient economy, there is a clear need to undertake market-driven research to assess what already existing waste resources (stockpiles, heaps, waste facilities, tailings ponds etc.) contain that can be of economic value. An indication of the importance of this development is the fact that the BAT document on the Management of tailings and waste-rock in mining activities (Article 21.3. of the Mining Waste Directive) is currently under review. The question concerns not only secondary raw materials with a stable supply generated in the EU (e.g. copper slag being used as adhesive for road-building or as base material in construction) but critical secondary raw materials which are in short supply domestically (esp. beryllium, tungsten, flourite and rare earth elements). This is an essential step to driving business growth in a largely untapped part of the extractive sector. A sound methodology for assessing the value of mineral resources in waste disposal sites and the environmental and societal impact of drawing on them will provide the groundwork for a sensible and sustainable utilization. By this we mean the ability to define critical waste areas, at a European scale. Some metal-rich waste areas can consequently be considered as potential economic resources. In favorable cases, considering the waste value and profit from extraction, a decision to re-mine may take place, which will have further economic and environmental benefit. The end result is new solutions reaching the market, whether they are adsorbents, binding materials (including geopolymers) or other waste-derived products.
To come up with a reliable toolbox and a single EU-wide reporting system for assessing and classifying mining waste disposal sites will involve the following research actions:
- Impact of laws and regulations which affect recovery of secondary raw materials from disposal sites (formulation of recommendations for improvements in legal status quo to facilitate recovery).
- Carry out research, estimate the potential of waste material, and conduct a feasibility analysis of recovering mining waste (formulation of possible approaches to facilitate an economic recovery of secondary raw materials from waste disposal areas, including new business models e.g. mobile extraction unit, centralized concentration).
- Investigation of approaches to assessing value of waste disposal site for recovery, exploitation, reclamation purposes (formulation of sampling criteria).
- Development of classes of waste disposal sites based on their environmental and community impact AND hydrogeological, geotechnical properties (formulation of classification system for waste disposal sites).
Exploitation cannot go ahead if the stability of the site is not safeguarded. With a spate of recent tragedies (in Poland – 2011; in Germany – 2009) linked in one way or another to slope failures, which in some cases cost human lives as well as heavily impacted local ecosystems, more advanced research and modelling tools are needed to better design for slope stability and predict failure modes as well as improve the durability of bottom and cover structures against the harmful discharge of tailings water to groundwater. For stability analysis of waste rock and overburden dumps to be effective, it is necessary to properly identify their strength properties. Properties of soil and rock mass composing the waste facility are variable in both the vertical and horizontal direction. This makes it difficult to determine their stability. Within the project the following activities will need to be carried out:
- Analysis of laws and regulations both at the EU and individual member states level, in the field of slope stability of the mining plant facilities (waste rocks facilities and overburden dumps).
- A review of the design methods applied for waste facilities and overburden dumps sites associated with the underground and opencast mineral extraction, and the state-of-the-art for analyzing their stability.
- Development and testing new methodology for the analysis of mechanical properties of waste rocks and soil contained at the disposal sites i.e. the parameters needed for the correct evaluation of the stability of already existing and newly designed waste facilities and overburden dumps.
- Development of guidelines for testing the properties of the subsoil, waste rock and overburden.
- Testing of the proposed tools at selected waste facility in the countries participating in the project. In each country partner of the project case-studies must be selected to detail waste mapping (up to 3 case studies). The mapping program can be supported by geotechnical and geochemistry works and boreholes.
- Formulation of comprehensive guidelines and recommendations for the analysis and design of safe waste facility and overburden dumps.
- Securing of funding to implement these guidelines and recommendations.

Description of the expected impacts

This Commitment brings together two inter-linked topics, which tie in closely with key action areas and expected impacts of the Strategic Implementation Plan.
One of the impacts of Action Area n° I.3 is the reduction in the “risks to the population and natural life caused by potential failures of tailings dams or mining operations”. The Commitment assumes a multi-disciplinary approach to the design of tailings dams and other waste facilities, the point of which is to minimize uncertainty with respect to slope stability and thereby prevent dam and facility failures.
Another Action Area n° I.4: “Processing and refining of raw materials” calls for efficient processing of secondary raw material feeds and with its emphasis on preparing a comprehensive approach to gauging the economic value of waste disposal sites, the present Commitment advances an economically sound argument for such processing.
Action area n° II.1: Minerals Policy Framework stresses the need for actions designed to “manage mining waste as a resource including how to deal with liability issues around old mine tailings facilities should be explored as well”. The Commitment is centered on providing the necessary design and analytical tools to ensure that mining waste is not just a liability, but a resource and provides for a comprehensive review of legal and other obstacles standing in the way of responsible exploitation, which include issues around who is responsible for the environmental impact of old mine tailings facilities. The Commitment calls for a systematic approach to gathering and analyzing data on mining waste and thereby contributes directly to the action’s areas expected impact of improving environmental management but also developing monitoring systems on raw materials flows and early warning systems on EU dependency on certain raw materials.
A very strong link connects this Commitment with Action area n° III.3, which envisions standards for secondary raw materials. This is in fact exactly, what the analysis/design guidelines and recommendations are meant to create – a code of good practices, which enable safe and responsible waste site design.

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: AGH University of Science and TechnologyCountry: PolandEntity profile: AcademiaRole within the commitment:

AGH University of Science & Technology (AGH UST), Faculty of Mining and Geoengineering will lead the project as well as be a partner within consortium responsible for tasks in the scope of waste inventory and analysis of their content, influence into environment, as well as economical, natural or cultural value. AGH UST will conduct also slope stability analysis in the context of both their safe building as well as reclamation process and their adaptation for different useful function.

Other partners

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V.

Name of the organisation: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V. Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Fraunhofer will lead the CFRP and GFRP recycling research.
Fraunhofer will perform corrosion tests on the developed materials.
Fraunhofer will work with CIDAUT on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project. Fraunhofer is the Quality Manager of the Consortium and will oversee deliverables and general reporting are produced with the best possible quality following agreed review standards.

Fundacion Cidaut

Name of the organisation: Fundacion Cidaut Country: Spain Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: CIDAUT will lead the research activities on materials recycling and compounding, implementing lab scale demonstrators of each process at its premises and, later, supporting end-users upscale the processes.
CIDAUT will perform mechanical tests, microstructural analyses, injection moulding capability studies on the developed materails, and will work with Fraunhofer on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project.

RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV)

Name of the organisation: RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV) Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: RWTH will implement the novel 3D Generative Preforming process (3D Fibre Spraying) that enables to create high-value long fibre-reinforced 3D preforms for thermoplastic and thermoset composites at low process costs (different kinds of yarn as a raw material, low tooling costs due to low cavity pressures). This cost effective technology allows to align the sprayed fibres in order to produce high-performance, engineered anisotropic products.

Universita' di Cagliari

Name of the organisation: Universita' di Cagliari Country: Italy Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: University of Cagliari is one of the leading European organization in the resin design and coupling with thermoplastic and thermose materials. University of Cagliari will support in the definition of the composite materials, both from CFRP/GFRP, ABS and Rare Earth composite material.


Name of the organisation: Relight Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: RELIGHT will work with ITRB to provide the research partners with residues for the recycled ABS supply and the REE recovery processes, including their HydroWEEE process as part of the processes to be studied and analyzed.

Piaggio Aerospace

Name of the organisation: Piaggio Aerospace Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - large company
Role within the commitment: Piaggio Aerospace is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Piaggio will assist in the compounds selection, provide Fraunhofer with specific corrosion requirements on business jet size aircraft, and will assess that the developed materials performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.

Blackshape Aircrafts

Name of the organisation: Blackshape Aircrafts Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: Blackshape Aircrafts is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Blackshape will support to fulfill the requirements of the aeronautics industry on ultra light jet, light jet and trainer for Syllabus, and will assess that the developed alloys performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.

KU Leuven

Name of the organisation: KU Leuven Country: Belgium Entity profile: Academia
Role within the commitment: KUL will collaborate on the balance problem studies and will lead the rare earth recovery research with the solvometallurgical and ionometallurgical processes.
KUL will also contribute to the final compounding selection.
KUL is the Dissemination Manager of the project, promoting that all partners are active on the project Dissemination.


Name of the organisation: FIDAMC Country: Spain Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: FIDAMC is going to lead the Work Package on Compression Moulding with CFRP-enhanced materials. As part of the AIRBUS Group, FIDAMC will also be able to provide the input material.
FIDAMC successfully developed a 3D Printer of own design to serve the Aerospace Industry and will be supporting Smart Lab 3D Industries in its 3D printer design.


Name of the organisation: COMPOSITE INNOVATION CENTER Country: Canada Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Composite Innovation Center is one of the world leading organization in the field of Composite materials, both from carbon fiber and vegetal-based fibers.
Composite Innovation center has successfully implemented, at lab-scale, recycling processes for CFRP and GFRP.

Existing EU Contribution: No

Period to implement the commitment: from 01-01-2015 to 31-12-2017