Assessment of Possible Recycling Directions of Heavy & Rare Metals Recovered from Combustion Waste Products

European context

European industries in the automotive, aviation, wind power, photovoltaic and lighting industries, as well as in the high-tech sector as whole, used tons of raw materials each day for their products. However, since its domestic production is limited to 3% of the world production, the EU is highly dependent on the import of many metals used. The EU faces a number of critical issues that can endanger the security of supply of the highly diversified mineral resources needed by its economy. Securing supplies has therefore become crucial. This requires advanced research on the entire value chain of raw-materials, from ore extraction to mineral processing, and from product design to reuse and recycling.

ERA-MIN ( call is an ERA-NET program on the Industrial Handling of Raw Materials for European industries and is supported by the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme. It was aimed at seƫng up networks and mechanisms to foster research in the field of industrial production and supply of raw materials, in line with the “EU Raw Materials Initiative”.


ERA-MIN focuses on the issues related to the three segments of the non-energy mineral resources: construction minerals, industrial minerals and metallic minerals.

The topics addressed by ERA-MIN cover the entire raw materials value chain: from primary to secondary resources, substitution of scarce elements, as well as cross-cutting issues like the mitigation of environ-mental impacts and raising public awareness.

ERA-MIN aims at overcoming the current state of fragmentation of research in the field of raw material supply and production by developing convergence and synergies at EU level between national research programs, industry, and with research programs led by the European Commission.

Tasks and objectives

The main objective of ERA-MIN is to foster coordinated research on the entire raw materials value chain.

To achieve these objectives, ERA-MIN is conducting three main tasks:

  • Mapping and networking the European nonenergy mineral raw materials research community
  • Roadmapping research priorities
  • Implementing joint actions and, especially, a joint call


ERA-MIN creates networks at several levels within the European non-energy mineral raw materials research community:
  • Networking between the EU Member States to build common and long-lasting interfaces between industry, research, education and policy-makers
  • Networking of national, regional and European research programs to reduce fragmentation and duplication of research.
  • Networking of the contrasted European non-energy mineral raw materials research community (ENERC).

An integrated approach to research - the entire raw materials value chain requires the involvement of many skills and varying expertises: Earth, environmental, life, social and material sciences, engineering and processing and knowledge from organisations involved in the recycling, down-stream users of raw materials and economists

ERA-MIN currently comprises 19 partners that are research-funding organisations (15 full members and three associated partners) from 15 countries.


The scope of ERA-MIN is in line with the Europe 2020 aim to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. As the global population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, resource demands will start to outstrip the capacity to supply some of them in economically, environmentally and socially sound conditions. New technologies in almost any field of daily life will require increasing use of crucial non-energy raw materials. Challenges from the new technologies will additionally affect the demand for non-energy mineral raw materials.

New technologies in almost any area of the daily life will require increasing use of crucial non-energy raw materials, which will also affect the demand for non- energy mineral raw materials. As large, rich deposits located in countries that offer access to their mineral resources are getting rare, research is vital to explore deeper-seated deposits in Europe, deposits in higher risk countries and to develop knowledge on unconventional resources.

The efficiency of material production and use throughout the whole supply chain needs to be improved, turning this chain into a materials circle where waste becomes the resource needed by another process, and dissipation is avoided as much as possible. Additionally, a significant reduction can be achieved by substituting scarce elements by more abundant ones with the same functionalities, or by substituting the functionality itself.

To achieve this, innovative recycling technologies for technology metals from complex products are as important as non-technical innovations to obtain better access to secondary resources and ensure their resource efficient processing throughout the recycling chain.

Project location

Romania, Portugal, Poland

7 partners of three different countries (Romania - 3, Portugal - 2, Poland - 2) of which 3 universities

1 research institute

1 big company

1 association of municipalities for municipal solid waste management

1 SMS enterprise

Duration: 36 months - 2015-2018

Project objectives

The project aims to demonstrate by a detailed fundamental and applied investigation the technically feasible alternative for strategic metals production as heavy and Rare Metals (HRM) consisting of Lanthanides: Lanthan (La), Cerium (Ce), Praseodymium (Pr), Neodymium (Nd), Promethium (Pm), Samarium (Sm), Europium (Eu), Gadolinium (Gd), Terbium (Tb), Dysprosium (Dy), Holmium (Ho), Erbium (Er), Thulium (Tm), YƩerbium (Yb), Lutetium (Lu), including Gallium (Ga), Strontium (Sr), Rubidium (Rb), Ytterbium (Y) and Tungsten (Wolfram), by utilizing fresh and reuse landfilled fly ash and bottom ash as a source source (pulverized) rock. The proposed approach, with a very limited experience in Europe and even worldwide, demonstrates innovative methods/technologies to develop metal recovery processes and transform wastes into high-grade and valuable metals with various applications, creating the possibility for a fast and low-cost access to strategic metals and a widespread saving of EU primary mineral resources.

The project expects to achieve results to be used as an iniƟal basis for the advanced, waste-less and environmentally safety utilization of various ashes to obtain concentrates, high purity reactives, metals and metallic salts, catalysts and adsorbents, metal and oxide nanoparticles, single or deposited on silica, scale controlled and functionalized and solar collectors precursors manufacturing to be used in high-tech, chemical, environmental and metallurgical purposes.

The project objectives involve: i) experimental models for sampling and characterization of raw materials; ii) inventory and mapping of the residue streams distribution within the selected sites; iii) preliminary preparation of the ashes provided from the industrial dump; iv) experimental sampling and physical haracterization of ash samples; v) analytical solutions for HRM separation and processing by several extraction techniques; vi) synthesis and characterization of high purity reactives, metals and metallic salts, novel nanostructured metal oxides catalysts on various supports; vii) finding solution for reuse the ash wastes remaining after acid treatments; viii) dissemination of results by organising a workshop, preparing scientific articles, patent application, market potential replication.

Project actions

  • Technical documentation concerning actual supply (including representative sites selecrion in the networking countries), storage and characteristics of the targeted non-energy industrial wastes
  • Mapping the location and the properties of landfilled coal ashes, as an alternative prospective mean to virgin resources and environmentally beneficial route to obtain valuable materials
  • Conduct sampling campaigns in targeted sites, selecting and complex characterization of representative samples provided from three different countries and sources
  • Identify procedures/methods to separate/recycling/recovery the targeted HRM
  • Achieving new ways of recycling ashes to valorize each waste individual characteristics
  • Establishing the technical solutions for selection and optimization of the chosen demonstrative laboratory scale flow sheet procedures/methods
  • Improvement and elaboration of new technologies for separation of the mixture components and components recovery (oxide nanoparticles, metallic nanoparticles, reactives)
  • Assessment of technical-economic feasibility of the proposed separation and recovery procedures/methods
  • Obtaining of experimental concentrates, reactive and pure metals, catalysts and adsorbents for depollution purposes, preparation of metal and oxide nanoparticles for the use in High-Tech, in the present case on solar collectors precursors manufacturing
  • Complex analysis of the remaining residue and finding ways for valorization / recycling
RareAsh, is focused to comply with the EU priorities by the proposed actions which are innovative (by using recovery methods based on acids and not on cyanides) and have a demonstrative character at laboratory scale, proven by:
  • application to non-energy secondary raw materials from Romania and Poland (fly ash, bottom ash, ash and slag wastes from coal fired power plants) in opposition to EU wide produced ash types from globally commercialized coals, such as in Portugal
  • application of different separation methods (flotation, hydro-metallurgical, precipitation, ion exchangers, electrolysis)
  • new technologies for the obtaining of precursors / products of HRM concentrates, high purity reactives, catalysts, precursors for the alternative power and “green energy” technologies


Project partners

CO: UPB – Research Centre of Environmental Protection and Eco-friendly Technologies

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UCB – Faculty of Engineering of University "Constantin Brâncuși" of Târgu Jiu

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CEO – Complexul Energetic Oltenia

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UP - Faculty of Sciences of Porto University

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LIPOR – Intermunicipal Waste Management of Greater Porto

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Główny Instytut Górnictwa – Central Mining InsƟtute, Katowice Poland, (GIG)

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