The European mining industry has a long, profitable and varied history. Today a lot of Europe’s ore deposits are mined out or respectively financially unattractive compared to the world-class deposits of the “big” mining nations.
The commodity market is facing an over-production crisis in which many companies continue producing even at very low prices. The need to maximise throughput from large mines has driven past innovations in mining practice to reduce operating costs with resulting low specific production costs. These combined factors have resulted in a stagnant raw materials market, where many small companies have ceased to trade and only those companies that hold the largest ore deposits are secure. A reduction in the number of smaller operators on the market will concentrate production even further, potentially increasing risks to the security of supply.
Consequently, the raw materials market has an increasingly limited ability to respond to increased demand for raw materials or shortages in raw material supply. The problem is most extreme for critical raw materials that are produced in small quantities relative to traditional metal commodities because the potential return on investment is too low.
The IMP@CT project proposes a solution that develops a new switch on-switch off (SOSO) mining paradigm to improve the viability of many critical metal and other small complex deposits. The following aspects to be to the fore:
- lower the barriers to entry of new operators to the market, which would reduce production concentration on the mining industry,
- smooth possible future over-production crises,
- facilitate mining of metals that are consumed in relatively small quantities,
- allow raw materials production to respond rapidly to global developments in the supply and end-user industries, by taking into account the social sustainability of these actions.
The MRE is involved in three of totalling nine work packages. The Institute works on the analysis and prediction of the water quality (AMD). Also a renewable and sustainable energy concept is developed to power the mining operations. Furthermore, an optimization based scheduling tool for the simulation of the overall integrated mining and mineral beneficiation process is prepared.
Besides RWTH further universities, research facilities and industry from Great Britain, France and Finland take a part in the IMP@CT project, which is financed in Horizon 2020 by European Union/ Commission. The work programme aims to develop the proof-of-concept of total and sustainable mining and processing solutions using case studies in the West Balkans, and subsequently to examine the step-changes that would be required for the technology to be applied globally.
For further information please visit the website of the MRE.