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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Enhanced By-product Recovery through the IOnometallurgy of primary sources

Objectives of the commitment

BRIO objectives are to map by-product potential and to develop a novel and sustainable ionometallurgical process to cost-effectively recover by-products from primary sources, i.e. ores and concentrates. This process is based on the use of innovative, environmentally-benign and biodegradable Deep Eutectic Solvents. Targeted by-products are tellurium (Te), selenium (Se), bismuth (Bi), rhenium (Re) and molybdenum (Mo), as well as Critical Raw Materials such as germanium (Ge), indium (In), cobalt (Co), palladium (Pd), platinum (Pt), antimony (Sb) and tungsten (W). In addition, co-occurring major metals such as gold (Au), silver (Ag), copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) could also be recovered. The project will increase by-product availability, thus reducing dependency on imports, while minimising the environmental impact of mineral processing with respect to conventional hydro- and pyro-metallurgy.

Description of the activities

BRIO involves a set of activities to meet the proposed objectives. These activities will be supported by the creation of an Advisory Board (AB), composed of stakeholders in the by-product value chain, including mining, metal processing and end-user companies. Four workshops are planned between BRIO partners and the AB in order to exchange feedback about BRIO process development, and obtain first-hand information from all main stakeholders.
The following actions are planned:
1. By-product potential mapping:
a) Desk-study of literature and available databases,
b) Selected analysis of ore from specific deposits, coupled with analysis of company data if available, to define relationship of by-product element to primary commodity and thus provide an estimate of by-product endowment from the known resource of primary commodity,
c) Assessment of mineralogical deportment of by product elements in different ores,
d) Development of workflow/toolkit for companies to be able to better assess by-product availability in future resource assessments.
2. BRIO process development, upstream and downstream activities will be developed as a first step toward process performance optimisation:
a) Upstream processing. This will assess how crushing of ore and production of concentrates by gravity, flotation etc. can be optimized, not only for recovery of primary commodity, but also to retain by-products that could be recovered by DES.
b) Downstream processing. This will address issues of economic recycling of DES from post-processing residues, and removal of contaminants from solid and liquid residues to allow safe disposal.
3. The ionometallurgical process will be developed firstly at lab scale and then upgraded to TRL5. Planned actions at lab-scale include:
a) Scope out how amenable different ores are to selective mineral dissolution with DES taking into account mineralogy, mineral composition, grain size and texture,
b) Perform bulk leach tests on concentrates to assess amenability for economic development to bench-test scale,
c) Investigate fundamental properties of solutions such: as solubility of different minerals, speciation in both simple and complex solutions, variations in properties as functions of temperature and trace water – this will give predictive capability of solution and recovery,
d) Perform tests of recovery of by-products (and major metals in some cases) from solution by different processes to determine the most economical method.
4. Results from these actions will be used for process optimisation and design. Optimisation will be carried out through the production of process mathematical models and application of Multidisciplinary Design Optimisation strategies.
5. The result of this activity will be used for the design of a prototype to be installed in one of the partners’ real industrial environments in order to upgrade BRIO concept to TRL5. In parallel, replication of the BRIO process will be conducted for the rest of mining and mineral processing partner companies thanks to the production of a conceptual design of the process implementation at theoretical full-scale.
6. Finally, a sustainability assessment will be carried out, involving: environmental impact analysis – LCA, economic analysis and technical assessment – integration with a mining facilities strategic development.
7. The whole set of activities planned for BRIO are completed with clustering activities and a exploitation and dissemination plan that will communicate project results to EU society, including industry, government and the public.

Description of the expected impacts

- Increased mining revenue: BRIO will unlock reserves of unexploited elements. By-product mapping will enable identification of new resources, and the companies’ toolkit will allow identification of potential by-products in existing and new mines.
- Improved economic performance: BRIO provides higher material-, and energy-efficiency with flexibility in processing. The advantage of BRIO with respect to a hydrometallurgical process is the use of a low-cost solvent (DES) that is recycled in a closed circuit, instead of reagents which generate large volumes of aqueous waste that need treatment before discharge. BRIO may reduce steps as several metals can be electrolytically recovered from the same solution. This would reduce capital expenditure (CAPEX) by <75% and operational expenditures (OPEX) by <50% according to partner estimates.
- Security of supply: BRIO will identify routes to increase the EU raw material supply, improving accessibility, trade conditions and lowering dependency on EU-external markets e.g. China. Metals will be sourced in the EU and there will be a chain of custody that allows them to be guaranteed ethically sourced.
- Environmental improvements: Compared to hydrometallurgy, BRIO will reduce up to 95% of liquid effluents. DES is biodegradable, and has a lower environmental impact compared with other leaching agents. BRIO will reduce the amount of potentially hazardous elements in tailings. For Au recovery, BRIO offers a cyanide-free processing route. Cyanidation is controversial in the EU; a viable alternative will allow environmentally- and socially-acceptable mining development.
- Contribute to the future CRM list: Project results will provide information on the availability of potential by-products within the EU for the CRM List update.

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: IDENER (Optimización orientada a la sostenibilidad S.L.)Country: SpainEntity profile: Private sector - SMERole within the commitment:

IDENER will support metal recovery activities and will later use this knowledge to conduct mathematical modelling, process optimisation and conceptual design. IDENER will deliver basic engineering documents for prototype implementation. In parallel, the company will rpelicate BRIO process to other companies. Finally, IDENER will produce a decision support system with the information produced regarding by-products potential and mapping.

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 01-01-2017 to 01-01-2021