Hydrometallurgy and mechanical treatment
Metals and minerals can be produced and recycled from challenging ores and secondary materials in a sustainable way.
Key facts about hydrometallurgy and mechanical treatment
Battery and critical metal needs for the carbon-neutral society grow exponentially. Holistic use of hydrometallurgy and mechanical treatment allows us to make the most of existing resources and improve circularity.
We can extract more from complex low-grade materials, minimise mining waste and turn side streams into valuables.
VTT offers excellent research infrastructure and 24/5 piloting facilities. VTT Bioruukki offers unique expertise, modelling and piloting capabilities under one roof.
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Historically, mining and metals industries have focused on the extraction of a single main metal which often only accounts for up to 1 percent of the processed material – in the case of gold, typically just a few grams in a ton. Side streams have been overlooked, wasting valuable materials and increasing the environmental footprint of the industry.
Battery minerals play a role in battling climate change
Critical and strategic metals – such as those used in batteries – are crucial for the electrification of transport and industries. The markets for electric vehicles and energy storage systems as well as their reuse and recycling are growing dramatically. At the same time, the easy-to-process metal ores are fading out and increasingly complex waste materials are accumulating.
Especially in Europe, we are in short supply of rich ores, which means that we need to turn to sources that have lower concentrations of the desired metals. At VTT, we specialise in making these processes possible and profitable.
Side streams have been overlooked, wasting valuable materials and increasing the environmental footprint of the industry.
With new technologies, minor metals and mineral residues can be retained, resulting in major steps toward more sustainable mining and metals industries, and allowing the effective recycling of high-value materials.
Benefits of hydrometallurgy and mechanical treatment
Extraction processes that use less energy, water and chemicals
Valuable end products from side streams and waste
Valorisation of co-products
Sustainable mining and metal production
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. At VTT, we have 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.
By optimising the use of energy, water, and chemicals we use hydrometallurgical methods to help our customers capture previously overlooked business opportunities while also decreasing the environmental impact of their processes. VTT’s zero waste mining concept covers all the above-mentioned aspects.
We help our customers capture previously overlooked business opportunities while also decreasing the environmental impact of their processes.
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 waste 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.
Recycling of metals
Metals are used in various high-tech applications, such as batteries, electronics and products and devices that combine metals with different materials. For example, a modern car has over 2000 compounds comprising 76 different elements. However, the recycling rates for many of such metals are below one percentage.
New recycling technologies developed by VTT cover the whole complex mixed material stream that may contain some toxic elements to be managed. We both support the mechanical treatment of metals recycling and combine different hydrometallurgical technologies to extract valuable metals from complex products.
The benefits of metals recycling aren’t limited to circular economy and material efficiency, but they open new opportunities for business. Through new technologies, obtaining valuable metals and minerals from low-grade sources such as recycling is becoming increasingly profitable.
We provide solutions for recovery of critical and strategic metals to different customers and tailor our services to fit your needs. We support you through the entire process of developing new solutions for specific materials or environments, help you tackle a particular challenge, or carry out tailored piloting at VTT Bioruukki.
We support you in:
- Leaching and recovery
- Chemical precipitation, solvent extraction and ion exchange
- Biohydrometallurgy, sulfate reduction, nutrient cycle and management of micro-organisms
- Pressure hydrometallurgy
- Closing the water loops and reusing the water
- Mechanical treatment, including size reduction and magnetic, density and size-based separations
- Process development and modelling
- In-house analytics to support tailored piloting.
Get in touch with us to hear more and start cooperation!
Experts behind the service
Research Professor, Dr. (Tech.), M.Sc. (Econ. & Bus. Adm.) Päivi Kinnunen works in the field of industrial circular economy, utilisation of mining industry side streams and (bio)hydrometallurgy. Kinnunen has worked in several scientist and team leader positions including coordination of large R&D projects, such as METGROW+ and ITERAMS.
Jarno Mäkinen works in the field of mining and metallurgy. His main knowledge areas are hydrometallurgy of complex sulfide ores and REE-bearing phosphates. In addition, he has been working closely with tailings utilisation and water treatment.