MATETPRO - Matériaux et Procédés pour Produits Performants

Innovative eco-efficient biohydrometallurgy process for the recovery of strategic and rare metals: primary and secondary resources – EcoMetals

Submission summary

France and Germany are heavily dependent on metal imports that play a central role in guaranteeing industrial and economic sustainability. In Europe, most of the primary resources with high or moderate grade of metals, reasonable accessibility and that are easy to process are exhausted. As a consequence, primary resources still available for exploitation are more complex showing a sophisticated mineralization (e.g. polymetallic, carbon rich), or a low metal content. On the other hand, it was demonstrated that wastes from the mining and mineral processing contain residual quantities of valuable metals. The exploitation of such resources would require optimising the global recovery of metals, whether they are base metals (Cu, Ni, Zn, …) or associated ones (Ag, Co, Ni, Ga, PGE, etc) i.e. improving the efficiency and the sustainability of current methods and developing further innovative technologies. Securing eco-efficient access to metals from primary and secondary mineral resources, combined with a minimum environmental footprint is a critical economic, social and scientific challenge.
In this context, integrated bio-hydrometallurgical technologies are more and more described as a viable option to treat complex resources and reduce environmental footprint. France and Germany are both very advanced in terms of competency and experience to develop and demonstrate the applicability of bioprocessing methods on raw material. Ambitious developments of biohydrometallurgy on copper-bearing black shale ores were investigated in previous projects (Bioshale in FP6 and BMBF r2-project) but further work is still required to improve the profitability of the process i.e. by improving pre-treatment steps, metal bio-leaching performances and downstream processing efficiency on both Cu and associated metals. These challenges will be tackled in EcoMetals project.
The objectives of EcoMetals project deal with the improvement of the mineral processing value chain. EcoMetals will face modern challenges of sustainable metal production in Europe by:
-developing alternatives mineral processing and metal production methods, including biohydrometallurgy methods from laboratory to pilot scale.
-demonstrating their efficiency, profitability and sustainability on case studies focusing on Cu-bearing ore types containing associated metals that are strategic for French and German industry (Ag, Co, Ni, Ga, PGM, etc.)
-demonstrating the potential of bioprocesses for treatment of mineral processing wastes from copper mining industry
-tackling some key associated scientific challenges (in terms of energy/water consumption efficiency; deleterious dependency of organic matter to flotation efficiency; bioleaching of chalcopyrite which is one of the main Cu mineral contained in the targeted resources, new innovative type of bioreactor and complete recovery of metals),
-developing new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) & sustainability tools in order to demonstrate that the technical options proposed are better than the current practices.
German Kupferschiefer dumps and ores from Mansfeld and Lausitz region respectively and French complex polymetallic deposits will be used as case studies for scientific breakthrough and integrated process demonstration activity.
EcoMetals is an ambitious project that through a cross-thematic, multidisciplinary approach will realize technological advances in the sustainable handling of copper ores and recycling of mining wastes. Moreover, EcoMetals will bring new technologies that could replace classical post mining remediation technology giving added value to mining waste management strategy. The project will incorporate and carry in parallel process integration, environmental analysis and life cycle evaluation of the new technologies. If successful, it can be expected that this French-German process will be applicable in other part of the world as Kupferschiefer ore type and polymetalic deposits are probably the major resources worldwide.

Project coordination

Francoise Bodenan (Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


BRGM Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières
BIO-IS Bio Intelligence Service
GeoRessources UMR 7359 GeoRessources
LATEP Laboratoire de Thermique, Energétique et Procédés, Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour

Help of the ANR 1,049,807 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2013 - 42 Months

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