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Creation of a European Hydrometallurgical Institute

Objectives of the commitment

1. To create an independent service provider for up-scaling and integrating hydrometallurgical processes:
Up-scaling facilities in ore-processing and pyrometallurgy already exist in Europe. Their expertise enables innovation in primary and secondary raw materials’ production in Europe. To propose a full technological offer, an open hydrometallurgical pilot facility is required.
2. Enable access to low grade, polymetallic resources in Europe:
Primary and secondary resources in Europe are often complex and difficult to valorize. There is a need to foster innovation in extractive metallurgy to access these resources.
3. Developping eco-concieved extractive processes:
In a context of increased awareness to environmental issues, innovative hydrometallurgical processes need to maximize resource efficiency, to minimize their carbon and water foot-print, to produce safe effluents and solid wastes.

Description of the activities

Since the mid-2000s, raw materials issues have attracted a renewed attention in Europe. Indeed European Countries and the EU itself have realised how dependent they were on foreign imports to access non energetic raw materials. This dependence is a threat to Europe’s industrial network and global competitiveness. In parallel, owing to the presence in Europe of valuable sources of such minerals, new market opportunities in this field may strengthen economic growth in Europe.

Production of metals is capital intensive and failed investments in production facilities can lead to disasters. To minimize risks and to develop efficient processes, pilot plant trials are of critical importance. A pilot plant is a facility where process, equipment and process parameters can be integrated and tested at a certain scale (for hydrometallurgy typical throughput figures go from a few litres per hour up to a hundred litres per hour). The aim of process development at pilot scale is to enhance technical and economical performances, to lessen environmental impacts and to provide required data to decide whether to enter full scale industrialisation. Consequently, access to a pilot facility is necessary to bring innovative ideas or concepts into industrial use, i.e. “Crossing the valley of death”.

In Europe, there exist several metallurgical and mineral processing pilot plants covering many different aspects of mineral processing, metallurgy and production of metals including Critical Raw Materials (SRMs).

Among the available technological families enabling the valorisation of CRMs, hydrometallurgy is considered as an important part of the processing tool-box. Unfortunately, in Europe, there is no hydrometallurgical equivalent available to the piloting service providers in mineralurgy (such as GTK Mintek in Finland) or in pyrometallurgy (such as SWEREA-MEFOS in Sweden).

This commitment thus aims at the creation of such a pilot development facility, which should:
i- be able to operate from 1 to 50l/h; 24/7 up to 12 weeks in a row
ii- be a tool to pilot complete processes starting from minerallurgical concentrates or secondary raw materials, ending with purified metals and waste streams

To do so the Institute will operate piloting platforms:
i- consisting in about 1000m² of labs and 2000m² of piloting halls
ii- offering access to the main hydrometallurgical techniques, including: leaching, bioleaching, precipitation, solvent extraction, electro-winning, etc.
iii- possessing their own analytic and research laboratory
iv- offering simulation tools to get more value from the tests’ results and to facilitate further up-scaling

The created facility will be part of the pilot facility platform described by the MetNet commitment and lean, for its R&D needs, on the research network described in the EurOPEM commitment.

To achieve its goals this commitment encompasses the following activities:
1. Identification of user’s needs (2014-2015):
i- Map the needed techniques to respond to the projects of the future partners and customers
ii- Identify the best working practices to create a successful facility

2. Search for funding (from 2014)
i- Search for direct regional, national and EU support
ii- Search for industrial shareholders
iii- Collaborative projects and R&D services

3. Construction of the facility (2014- 2018)
i- Acquisition of the needed equipment
ii- Building of a first platform (2015)
iii- Building of the complete institute (2017)

4. Operation (from 2015)
i- Starting ASAP in an existing building
ii- Progressively developping the capacity and the service offer

Description of the expected impacts

1. Minimising risk for industrial investments:
Building a new extraction plant or implementing a new extraction process is very capital intensive (typical figures reach billions of Euros) and the risks involved are very high. The ability to safely bring projects from low to high TRLs (Technology Readiness Levels) is crucial for the successful development of new projects, the sustainable access to new raw materials or the safe implementation of innovative processes. The EHI will provide such opportunity for the European industrial community.
2. Faster industrialisation:
Numerous good ideas are doomed to stay in the drawer of creative scientists because they never have a chance to get access to up-scaling facilities. To help more low TRL projects to grow in TRL, the EHI will devote part of its piloting time to projects issuing form the EuROPEM research network (see corresponding RM-commitment).
3. More social acceptance for metallurgical activities:
Due to land use policies, industrial sites in Europe are a scarce resource. Moreover, they are often located close to populated areas. The development of new plants and investments in existing plants won’t therefore be possible without sufficient public support. The latter requires (amongst others) the development of cleaner and safer processes, hence the necessary development tools for these processes, such as pilot test facilities.
4. More value and job creation in Europe:
The purpose of this commitment is not just to address a threat to our high-tech industry. It is also an opportunity to create new metallurgical companies and to develop the activities of the existing ones. Allowing piloting to take place in Europe will develop the skills European professionals create know-how in Europe.

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: CEACountry: FranceEntity profile: Governmental/public bodyRole within the commitment:

CEA will act as the coordinating partner of this project. It will be responsible for building the consortium, identifying the needs, searching the needed financial support, designing and building the most appropriate technical solution.

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 01-01-2014 to 01-01-2020