Tailings are finely ground residues of extractive (mining) industries which are generated from the processes of crushing/milling and of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic/ undesirable fraction of an ore (also known as mineral beneficiation). They consist of ground rock and mineral beneficiation process effluents.
In order to mitigate the potential environmental impacts associated with the disposal of tailings, the EU commission has deployed the Extractive Waste Directive along with the Seveso III Directive, which focuses on accident risks and the Best Available Techniques (BATs) on the management of tailings and waste – rock. Furthermore, extractive wastes fall under the provisions of EU’s waste management legislation framework, which is based on a hierarchical approach: prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery, and disposal. However, the recovery of valuable metals from tailings has not been fully developed yet, for reasons of economic and technological feasibility and therefore it’s a major challenge.
The MSCA-ETN SULTAN project focuses on the remediation and reprocessing of sulfidic mining wastes both of abandoned and active mines and is in line with the provisions of the EU’s waste management legislation. The scientific goal of the SULTAN team is to develop cutting-edge methodologies to assess the resource potential of the tailings in Europe, to recover valuable metals, detoxify and to design novel green construction materials from them. Can we achieve these goals? Stay tuned, more blogs are coming!
Sources and further reading
- G. Naidu, S. Ryu, R. Thiruvenkatachari, Y. Choi, S. Jeong, and S. Vigneswaran, “A critical review on remediation, reuse, and resource recovery from acid mine drainage,” Environ. Pollut., vol. 247, pp. 1110–1124, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2019.01.085
- Bernd G. Lottermoser, Mine Wastes- Characterization, Treatment and Environmental Impacts, Springer- Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010. ISBN 978-3-642-12418-1
- Directive 2006/21/EC of the European Parliament and of Council of 15 March 2006 on the management of waste from extractive industries and amending Directive 2004/35/EC. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32006L0021
- Directive 2012/18/EU of the European Parliament and of Council of 4 July of 2012 on the control of major- accident hazards involving dangerous substances, amending and subsequently repealing Council Directive 96/82/EC. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32012L0018
- Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document for the Management of Waste from Extractive Industries in accordance with Directive 2006/21/EC. https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/best-available-techniques-bat-reference-document-management-waste-extractive-industries
- European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on raw materials, Raw materials scoreboard 2018. https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/117c8d9b-e3d3-11e8-b690-01aa75ed71a1