Near-Zero-Waste Recycling of Low-Grade Sulphidic Mining Waste for Critical-Metal, Mineral, and Construction Raw-Material Production in a Circular Economy

Project: EU project

Project Details


NEMO is ‘Near-zero-waste recycling of low-grade sulphidic mining waste for critical-metal, mineral and construction raw-material production in a circular economy’. It is a EU H2020 Innovation Action (IA, SC5-14b) project targeting the near-zero-waste recycling of low-grade sulfidic mining waste. NEMO recovers valuable and critical metals, and converts the residual mineral fraction in cement, concrete and construction products. With an estimated volume of 600 Mtonne/yr and a historic stockpile of 28,000 Mtonne, sulphidic mining waste from the production of Cu, Pb, Zn and Ni, represents the largest volume of extractive waste in Europe. When poorly managed, these “tailings” may cause major environmental problems such as acid mine drainage. In 2016 EIP Raw Materials launched a “call to arms” to transform the “extractive-waste problem” into a “resource-recovery opportunity”, as “tailings” still contain valuable & critical metals. Using a “4 PILOTS – 2 case-studies” concept NEMO develops, demonstrates and exploits, therefore, new ways to valorise sulphidic tailings. The 2 cases are the Sotkamo Ni-Cu-Zn-REE/Sc mine in Finland and the Las Cruces Cu-mine in Spain; the 4 PILOTS are located at key points in the near-zero-waste flowsheet, encompassing the recovery of valuable & critical metals, the safe concentration of hazardous elements, the removal of sulphur as sulphate salts, while using the residual mineral fraction in cement, concrete and construction products. NEMO has established an interdisciplinary consortium, including 8 industrial partners (2 mining, 4 engineering, 1 machine manufacturing & 1 construction material company), 4 research institutes, 2 universities and 1 civil society group. NEMO’s near-zero-waste technology will provide the EU with both direct and long-term, indirect advantages. The former range from new resources (e.g. base metals: Cu, Zn, Ni, Pb; critical metals: Sc, Nd, Y, Sb; SCM and aggregates etc.), CO2 savings from metal recovery and the replacement of Ordinary Portland Cement), new job creation (> 150 FTEs), new revenues (> 200 M€/yr) while the latter represent the multiplication of the former benefits (cf. 28,000 Mtonne of these tailings), while eradicating acid-mine drainage and other environmental issues, and ensuring an enhanced dialogue (framework) between industry and civil society, to obtain and maintain the Social License to Operate in the EU.
Effective start/end date1/05/1830/11/22

Collaborative partners

  • VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (lead)
  • Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) (Project partner)
  • Optimización orientada a la sostenibilidad S.L. (IDENER) (Project partner)
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) (Project partner)
  • Finnish Minerals Group (Project partner)
  • Thyssenkrupp AG (Project partner)
  • Resourcefull (Project partner)
  • Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM) (Project partner)
  • Skyscape OY (Project partner)
  • Jacobs Beton (Project partner)
  • National Research & Development Institute for Non-ferrous and Rare Metals (IMNR) (Project partner)
  • CATAPA vzw (Project partner)
  • University of Exeter (Project partner)
  • DMT GmbH & CO. KG (Project partner)
  • Boliden AB (Project partner)

Funding category

  • EU-H2020