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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

New industrial solutions to treat high P iron ores – case study of the Moncorvo iron ore

Objectives of the commitment

The main objectives of the commitment are: i) the development of an innovative metallurgical process to treat high-phosphorus iron ores based on biological processes; ii) the reduction of the phosphorus content of high-phosphorus iron ores to market specifications; iii) the recovery of phosphorus-rich waste to be used in agriculture; iv) valuing the rare-earth elements contained in the phosphate minerals; and v) valuing the silica-rich phase by creating geopolymers and other uses in the civil construction sector. Ultimately, the aim is two-fold: firstly, to produce iron ore concentrates with market specifications, based on a biodesphosphorization process for high-phosphorus iron ore deposits that exist across Europe and worldwide, and secondly, to improve the economic competitiveness of marginal iron ore deposits by value-adding by-products and waste.

Description of the activities

The existence of several iron ore deposits in Europe and worldwide, nowadays considered technically or economically unfeasible, taking into account the actual price market and the forecast for the next years, attributes to this project an enormous mobiliser effect that this consortium wants to take advantage of. It is also intention to focus on the feasibility of the exploitation of byproducts, like the RRE normally associated to the phosphate phase, and on the valorization of the P-rich tailings that can be incorporated in fertilizers to be used in the agroindustry. Moreover, and trying to reduce the environmental liability in the mining sector, researches will be made, in order to discover new applications in the civil construction sector to the high amount of silica tailings resulting of the concentration of the low grade iron ores.
Biodesphosphorization processes assumes an important role in this commitment, since so far there are only studies at a laboratory scale, so we are facing a process that has never been tested at an industrial scale and that will create a rupture with the existing knowledge regarding high P iron ore beneficiation.
The processes to be undertaken in the development of this project need to be underpinned by scientific work linked to process development to ensure scale-up of laboratory processes to stable operating production plants.
WP1 – Mineralogical studies and characterization on the phosphorus-bearing minerals. This is an important step in establishing a foundation of knowledge for the project. Research questions that can be answered are the occurrence of the phosphorus (and rare-earth elements), the association of the phosphorus-containing minerals (and the rare-earth minerals) with the iron minerals, and the mobility of the phosphorus and rare-earth elements in aqueous environments with active bacteria.
WP2 – Microbiological characterization. WP2 is important in understanding the types of microorganisms that are active in the biodephosphorization system.
WP3 – Biodesphosphorization of high-phosphorus iron ores. WP3 aims to develop a bioleaching method for dissolving the phosphorus-containing minerals and using the uptake of the phosphorus by the microorganisms to increase the driving force for dissolution and to reduce the possibility for secondary precipitation of the phosphorus.
WP4 – Valuing waste and by products. WP4 is the part of the work package that aims to derive value from the materials that have been produced, such as the phosphorus-enriched bacterial solutions, and the rare-earth elements in the tailings.
WP5 – Pilot testwork. In order to determine if the processes developed can be implemented at scale, a mini-pilot plant (100 kg/h iron ore) will be established and operated for a period of a month. This pilot operation will provide materials for the other work packages, and provide invaluable information on the biodephosphorization process.

Description of the expected impacts

The successful execution of the mineralogical and metallurgical research in high-phosphorus iron ore envisaged in this commitment would result in the following benefits:
a) A rational approach to developing innovative, environmental-friendly processes for the treatment of high-phosphorus iron ores, as well as associated byproducts and waste for optimal material recovery. There are no industrial solutions for high-phosphorus iron ore.
b) Improving the internal iron ore competitiveness in the EU, by exploiting endogenous iron resources, and thus reducing iron ore imports.
c) Minimizing the risk for industrial investments in capital-intensive iron ore processing (a typical flow sheet for iron ore can reach hundreds of millions of Euros).
d) The ability to safely bring projects from low to high TRLs (Technology Readiness Levels), like the biodesphosphorization process, crucial to the successful development of new projects, and to sustain current operations through the safe and economic application of innovative processes.
e) Reducing the amount of iron ore mine wastes by the creation of new applications.
f) Improve the agro-industry sector by using the phosphorus-rich waste as fertilizers.
g) Positive impact in reduction of environmental impact, by replacing the use of strong acids or bases with more environment-friendly bioleaching processes.
h) Increased social acceptance for metallurgical activities through the development of cleaner, safer processes and more environmentally-friendly technologies.
i) Facilitate technology transfer from academia to industry by reinforcing synergies between the major stakeholders of innovation.

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: CPF - Companhia Portuguesa do Ferro, S.A. Country: PortugalEntity profile: Private sector - SMERole within the commitment:

In the present commitment CPF will be responsible for the mineralogical characterization of the iron oxides, the phosphate minerals and rare earth elements and their association – WP1, and for the execution of the pilot testwork - WP5. It will be also responsible for the project management and the dissemination of the results and the promotion of the project.

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 01-07-2016 to 30-06-2019