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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Objectives of the commitment

The main objective is to increase transnational cooperation to develop best practice for mining small mineral deposits. The focus will be on known gold deposits (typically < 1 Moz Au) but will also address valuable coproducts such as Sb, Te, Se, which are critically important for European industry. The research will identify the socio-economic challenges of small deposit mining in Portugal, Spain and the UK. The core emphasis will be on innovative exploration processes, mineral processing and evaluation of socio-economic impacts. The aim is to develop sustainable and economically viable small deposit mining within EU. Knowledge generated by the research will enable early decisions to be made on deposit feasibility. Furthermore, the commitment includes research on the corporate social responsibility, social acceptance of small mining and the perception of local communities. It will be undertaken with the cooperation of industrial partners, subcontractors, outsourcing services and stakeholders.

Description of the activities

The aim of the research is to understand and provide solutions to the challenges that face exploitation of small mineral deposits. Though the focus will be on gold deposits in NW Iberia, this style of mineralisation is very common throughout the EU. Therefore, the results will have applicability across Europe and beyond. A starting point is to fully understand the mineralogical and petrogenetic features at a range of scales, and in a 3D context, of key small-scale gold deposits. This new knowledge, concerning these complex gold deposits and their associated valuable coproducts, will help to identify the most efficient and environmentally benign production methods. In addition, the cooperation between the country partners aims to develop recommendations for the sustainable exploration and exploitation of these currently economically marginal and difficult to mine mineral resources.
Concessional deposits belonging to partner companies and will cover a range of mineralization and alteration styles. A Geographic Information System (GIS) will be used to document and characterize deposits, and identify the ideal location for a pilot shared processing plant. Mineral mapping and 2/3D modelling using spatial data will enable an exploration/exploitation GIS to produce potential and predictive maps for further small deposits. The most cost effective exploration tool is geophysics and we intend to use it to significantly enhance the characterization of the selected known deposits. It is also expected that it will play an important role in the definition of 3D models, and in the most suitable techniques for modelling small deposits. Detailed knowledge of the mineralogy of gold in the feed, concentrates and tailings will enable the development of mineral processing operations that selectively concentrate a range of gold-bearing and coproduct minerals. The mineralogical characterization will comprise studies of the ore feed, concentrates and tailings as well as historical waste dumps. Importantly, tailings and waste dumps can contain fairly high Au concentrations, and coproducts. A major research challenge will be to identify cost effective mineral processing technologies for Au and coproduct separation and recovery. Due to increasing metal value and tightening environmental requirements, new technologies enabling Au and coproduct recovery are of key importance as are technologies that deal with deleterious elements such as As.
The success of small mining projects very much depends on acceptance within the local community. In addition to any legislative requirements, an agreement and understanding between industry and the local community – the “social license to operate” – is required and is as important as all other legal permits. The selected study sites are in different exploration and exploitation stages and, moreover, many have been mined since Pre-Roman times with a heritage of archaeological sites and environmental issues that need to be considered and addressed. In areas where tourism is not a significant industry the local socio-economic conditions are currently very depressed, here sustainable small scale exploration and mining can be an important contributor to local economy. However, it is essential to communicate to stakeholders and communities post closure plans as in many cases they do not have a clear view of how the area will appear after the mine closure. It is clear that a strategy needs to be developed at project start-up, and part of the resources generated by the mine should be used for building the economic and social welfare in the area during the operational phase and after the mine closure. An analysis of the options and alternatives of post-operational development of the small mining areas will be researched. The following factors will be analyzed: proposed technical solutions for mine closure; proposed post-mining land-use; use of the environmental bonds; identity of the local community (i.e. tradition in mining/other activities, educational level, skills, autochthonous/non-native population ratio), priorities for the socioeconomic development after closure; mining independent economic opportunities.

Description of the expected impacts

This novel approach to small-scale gold and coproduct mining will allow a thorough intercomparison of different small deposits and provide new approaches to their production across the EU. The results will underpin exploration campaign strategies, and will also aid in identifying key economic feasibility indicators in small gold deposits which, in turn, will help explore for similar deposits under cover. There is the potential for the project to generate new processes, new services and new business models. For example vertical supply integration for EU manufacturers that use technology metals (Te, Se, Sb). The results will also be useful for mining and equipment suppliers and have national and transnational impact. Mining companies can use new mineral processing technologies to ensure the stable and sustainable supply of gold and valuable coproducts for EU industries. The combination of project members and the proposed research work can be joined to “in progress” research projects such as SUSMIN from the ERA-MIN initiative. There is also a societal innovation that aims to develop tools for enhancing mechanisms of corporate social responsibility, community engagement and stakeholder relations in areas with small mines. The special focus is in the post-operational development of the mining areas. This includes mine closure procedures, post-mining land-use plus socio-economic development priorities after mine closure. Finally, the ideal aim would be construction of a pilot processing plant supported in the framework of the EIP-RM. It will be strategically situated in NW Iberia – an area that is served by first class railways network and main highways that can be used to transport ore concentrates from different small gold deposits. This will enable economically feasible solutions to gold and coproduct supply to EU, strategic elements of great importance for the development and competitiveness of the EU.

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: Porto UniversityCountry: PortugalEntity profile: AcademiaRole within the commitment:

The main role will be to coordinate the scientific and technical activities at the consortium level, ensuring the smooth running of the application to the Call, facilitating exchange of information in between partners. Our scientific contribution will be the development of ore geology and integration in GIS of geological models to provide improved predictivity tools for mining activities. In the ore processing work package we have the optimization of gold leaching using thiosulfate or eventually ammonium polysulfide.

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 07-02-2014 to 07-02-2020