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Innovative bio-mining and bio-mineralization technologies applied to extraction of low-grade ores deposits, mine by-products and recycling of man-made products

Objectives of the commitment

The aim of the consortium is to develop new strategies to extract low grade primary geological resources, mine by-products, using Iberia as a case study, and to recycle technological waste for rare metal recovery. The core of the investigation is the development of innovative bio-mining and bio-mineralization techniques, based in the collection of microorganisms from hydrothermal vents. The results is expected to be in according with the strategic implementation plan on raw materials not just for Technology pillar 1B action area nº I.2 and I.3 but also 1A and 1C and as such provides fundamental knowledge for the entire technology pillar as a whole. It will enable and facilitate the development of global sustainable Innovative extraction of raw materials through the application of biotechnologies allowing the exploitation of presently uneconomically geological resources, in a more environmentally friendly way and substantially reducing mining wastes

Description of the activities

Portugal and Spain (Iberia), traditional producers of raw materials, were affected by the crisis of the 80´s and 90´s, but retained a significant potential to reactive their mining industry, alleviating Europe resources deficits and driving the national economy. In the past the exploitation was focused in the economically high grade ore deposits, extracted and processed by conventional techniques. The metal recovery efficiency of these techniques was variable but not very high, and, as a consequence, it is expected that a significant amount was discarded to the tailings dams.
With the goal of developing new strategies based on emerging technologies to allow the economic exploitation of primary low grade ores as well as secondary sources from by-products of the mining activities, an interdisciplinary team was established joining geologists, geochemists, microbiologists, mining and material engineers from University of Coimbra (UC), University of Porto (UP), University of Aveiro (UA) in Portugal, University of Salamanca (USal) and Institute of Geology and Mining in Spain (IGME), and University of Copenhagen in Denmark (KU), and the Portuguese company EDM (Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro). It is expected that the same technologies can also be applied to the recycling of technological man-made wastes, mainly with the purpose of recovering rare minerals.
These objectives are essential for the strategic implementation plan of the European innovation partnership on raw materials priority area I.B: Technologies for primary and secondary raw materials’ production with emphasis in the action areas nº I.3 - Innovative extraction of raw materials and alternative mining and nº I.5 - Recycling of raw materials from products, buildings and infrastructure
Geological, mineralogical and geochemical studies to be developed by members of the UC, USal and IGME will improve the knowledge in low grade ores deposits of central Iberia whose exploitation in the past by conventional means was not economically feasible, as the case of W and Sn
The metal resistant microorganisms from the culture collection of UC, part of it with origin in deep-see hydrothermal vents, will be characterized (biochemical and molecular), genetically engineered to obtain new biotechnological tools, to explore their use in improving mineral extraction. The UC and UP group will develop new processes for extracting small amounts of metal by using these microorganisms looking into hitherto neglected deposits.
UC and UA also intend to explore the microorganisms collection to perform bio-mineralization. Improving growing conditions and immobilization strategies for bio-mineralization will be developed in collaboration with material engineers from UC for strains already identified (uranium and arsenic biomineralization) and for the new bio-mineralizing strains that will be detected in the culture collection.
The section of Microbiology at KU is committed to investigation of microbial interactions and their relevance for providing novel technologies. Lead by Professor Søren Sørensen these technologies will utilize hitherto untapped or underutilized resources and the production of novel microbial derived products, for extraction of high value products or minerals bio-remediation and bio-mineralization. Techniques used are high throughput including access to the Copenhagen high through put Sequencing facility chaired by the Co-applicant for pyrosequencing and FACS, for genome, transcriptome, and sorting of engineered strains by flow cytometry.
The biotechnological techniques will also be tested in association with other innovative non-biological techniques to explore possible synergistic effects.
The “biominers” microorganisms will be tested also in "urban mining" environments, that is to evaluate its efficiency to perform bioleaching of technological man-made waste (electric and electronic and others) for recovery of the metals, namely the rare ones.
By the end it is expected to design and build a pilot biotechnological plant in a former mining mine for testing the laboratory results. EDM will make available mining areas for implementation of this plant.

Description of the expected impacts

The deliverables expected from the project are essential for the strategic implementation plan of the European innovation partnership on raw materials, not just for Technology pillar 1B action area nr I.2 and I.3 but also I.A and IC. These will also impact alternative mining through the application of biotechnologies substantially reducing generation of mining waste and as such provides fundamental knowledge for the entire technology pillar as a whole. We expected to:
Innovative extraction of raw materials
Improving the recovery efficiency of rare minerals from technological wastes
Reducing the amount of mine wastes
Reducing the amount of technological waste, namely electronic and electric equipment
Developing a more sustainable exploitation of raw materials (from economic, environment and social issues)
Identify new resources, discarded in the past due to the low content of the metals and high cost of exploitation
Discover new tools (modified microorganisms) for mining and recycling
Design and implement of biotechnological plants for low grade geological resources and mine by-products
Bringing together a team of experts from different fields (geology, mineralogy, geochemistry, microbiology, chemical, mechanical and mining engineers)

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: University of Coimbra - Mechanical Enginnering Research Center (CEMUC) Country: PortugalEntity profile: AcademiaRole within the commitment:

The University of Coimbra, through its Research Center of Materials, will carry on the field work for geological prospecting works and co-operate in the field of petrographic and mineralogical studies of the ore minerals. The core of the microbiological studies would be conducted in the same research center. The Coimbra group would be also involved in the design and monitoring on the pilot plant.

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.

Relight

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.

FIDAMC

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.

COMPOSITE INNOVATION CENTER

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: Yes

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