EU project ION4RAW proposes a new energy-, material- and cost-efficient mineral processing technology to recover by-products from primary sources by means of innovative Deep Eutectic Solvent (DES) ionic liquids and advanced electrochemical methods as an only step.

ION4RAW | Context of the project

The long-term availability of mineral resources is crucial in underpinning human society, technological and economic activity, and managing anthropogenic environmental impacts.

When a metal is obtained largely or completely as a by-product, its production is often unable to respond quickly to rapid changes in consumption trends and, as a result, its price can fluctuate widely.

As an example, indium is produced as by-product of zinc. Demand for indium expanded significantly over the past few decades, especially with increased demand for flat panel displays that use indium tin oxide; the primary production of indium thus increased a staggering 1675% from 1975 to 2012, whereas for zinc it increased by a more modest 231% over the same time period. This was only possible because of enhanced recovery of indium from zinc-dominant ore. If such disparities in the demand of the host and companion were to continue, the recovery of indium from zinc ores would need to be further improved.

This introduces an additional challenge: for many by-products, there are no reliable estimates of ore reserves or cost-effective technologies to recover them without affecting major commodity production. Hence, to secure supply, there is a need to identify and develop indigenous resources.

ION4RAW | Objectives of the project

The main objective of Ion4Raw project is to develop a novel and sustainable ionometallurgical process to resource- and cost-effectively recovery of mainly by-products from primary sources (and the main metal in the ore), i.e ores and concentrates following a complete value chain. Others include:

  • Encourage and support by-product recovery by conducting a comprehensive by-product potential identification and assessment
  • Maximise upstream recovery of by-products from primary sources for ionometallurgical processing and minimise the downstream environmental impact
  • Cost-efficiently recover by-products from primary sources through ionometallurgical route
  • Design and optimise the overall process from a holistic point of view following a Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) approach
  • Provide proof of process sustainability from economic, technical and environmental point of view, as well as to promote the exploitation of the project’s results

ION4RAW | A trans-disciplinary inititative

ION4RAW partner
Our project integrates diverse disciplines, namely: mineralogy, metallurgy, electrochemistry, mathematical and modelling optimisation, sustainability assessment methodologies, and process and chemical engineering. We bring together 13 partners from 7 EU countries as well as Peru whose competencies are clearly defined to maximise synergies and avoid duplication while covering all the steps for technology development and the whole value chain of by-product recovery.

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ION4RAW has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under Grant Agreement 815748.