Hydrometallurgy

A closeup photo of metal shavings scraps.

Metals and minerals can be produced and recycled from challenging ores and secondary materials in a sustainable way.  

Key facts

Battery and high-tech metal needs for the carbon-neutral society grow exponentially.

We can extract more from complex low-grade materials and turn mineral waste and mine water into valuables.

VTT offers excellent piloting facilities such as VTT’s Bioruukki piloting centre and Circular Raw Materials Hub.

Finland has a long history in mining and metals processing, needed now more than ever for the electrification and digitalisation of the society. The markets for electric vehicles and energy storage systems as well as their reuse and recycling are expected to grow dramatically during the coming years. This is due to fading out of the easy-to-process metal ores with concomitant accumulation of increasingly complex waste materials. 

With current technologies, only target metals representing a couple of percentages of the material streams are recovered, while the majority is considered as side streams. This is how we lose minor metals and mineral residues, but desperately need and seek metals and minerals for the future high-tech products and applications.   

Sustainable mining and metal production

The latest research is focusing on new technologies to maximise the value of ores and mineral raw materials and thus having a huge impact on global material footprint. VTT has deep knowhow and an excellent research infrastructure, including pilot facilities, to contribute to the latest achievements in the field and transfer technologies to solutions for our customers.  

Our latest research focuses on new technologies to maximise the value of ores and mineral raw materials, and thus having a huge impact on global material footprint. 

In addition to target metals, we are able to recover minor elements and create value from side streams, for example, by recovering metals from mining and metallurgical wastes and developing technologies for utilising mineral side streams in high-value applications. Mineral side streams can be used in construction materials replacing cement, in high-temperature ceramics, and in plastics as filler material.  

VTT is active in developing new applications for wide range of mineral side streams, including mining tailings. In addition, significant amounts of water and chemicals are saved, when the mine and process water loops are closed. VTT’s zero waste mining concept covers all the above-mentioned aspects. 

Recycling of metals

Metals are used in various high-tech applications, such as batteries, electronics and intelligent clothes, which contain plastics or textiles. For example, a modern smartphone contains tens of various metals, which are irreplaceable but exist distributed in the structure and at small amounts. However, the recycling rates for many of such metals are below one percentage. 

New recycling technologies developed by VTT take into account the whole complex mixed material stream that may contain some toxic elements to be managed. 

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