Mine waste can contain valuable base, precious, and critical metals, which can be used in several technological applications. Moreover, the mineral residue fraction of this type of waste generally contains ceramic-friendly minerals (e.g., quartz and phyllosilicates), which can be used in several ceramic applications, with or without the need of pre-treatment (mechanical or chemical).
Rethinking natural resources
For the last two centuries, the world population has increased by eight times. After four industrial revolutions, our modern societies reached the current 7.8 billion people living on the same planet. The ongoing population growth implies not only a high demand for natural resources but also territory in order to provide shelter, energy, and services. The correlation between consumption patterns and technology development is clear in a digitalised world, where means (of communication and transportation) turned into centralised and crucial economic assets for globalisation. A paradigm shift towards a more sustainable world becomes a must when ecological balance fails to be achieved in various ecosystems around the globe. In fact, decoupling economic growth from natural resource consumption, while minimising environmental and health impacts associated with the extraction and processing of natural resources, is vital to achieve the much needed ecological balance.
Clean (renewable) energy transition presents a solution to reduce anthropogenic carbon footprint, but also a societal challenge concerning the resource efficiency and raw materials demand and supply. The considerable amount of natural resources, especially metallic ores containing critical raw materials, needed to manufacture clean technology products, is increasing the pressure over the primary raw materials sector. Critical raw materials include strategic metals of high risk of supply (external market dependence and lack of viable substitutes), as well as of high economic importance (end-use and value added). Nevertheless, non-metallic minerals (e.g., sandstones and clay deposits), are still considered the most exploited natural resources, which account for almost half of the global natural resources extraction. Alternative raw material sources, especially from waste streams, are crucial to supply raw material-intensive industries while minimising the pressure over the natural resource exploration, as well as the associated environmental, health, and social impacts derived from exploration and waste disposal practices.
Mining waste is one of the largest waste streams in Europe. The accumulation of mine waste in tailing ponds and waste rock piles, with no end-use, presents an environmental, health, and social threat, but also a value loss. Mine waste can contain valuable base, precious, and critical metals, which can be used in several technological applications. Moreover, the mineral residue fraction of this type of waste generally contains ceramic-friendly minerals (e.g., quartz and phyllosilicates), which can be used in several ceramic applications, with or without the need of pre-treatment (mechanical or chemical). A sustainable approach in the raw materials sector can be achieved by implementing more industrial symbiosis practices, where the identified waste (materials passport) of ones, is the resource used by others. Reuse, repurposing and recycling practices combined with cradle-to-cradle design approach, where product durability and easy-to-repair features become core practices, comprise two key-factors to turn sustainability performance into environmental and socio-economic gains. However, no paradigm shift is fully accomplished without investment in education and research, two fundamental pillars in the age of (mis)information.
Francisco Veiga Simão
Marie Curie PhD Fellow in Science
Project employee @ Wienerberger NV, Belgium
PhD researcher @ KU Leuven, Belgium
EU H2020 MSCA-ITN-ETN SULTAN
1Central Laboratory for Clay Roof Tiles, Wienerberger NV, 8500 Kortrijk, Belgium
2Research Centre for Economics and Corporate Sustainability, KU Leuven, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
3Division of Geology, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
The Post Appeared First On Young Ceramists Network website and it was included in the April 2021 Newsletter.