New minerals processing project to reduce CO2 emissions and improve efficiency

Posted on: 26 October 2017

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin are leading a new Horizon 2020 Training Network – MetalIntelligence – that will train PhD students from across the world in state-of-the-art minerals processing techniques.

Society relies on mineral processing to produce the materials that support almost every aspect of modern life – from our phones and laptops to our transport and healthcare, and even to our food.

Current processing techniques are often unnecessarily wasteful, so the overall goal of the project is to deliver research that will show how we can improve the efficiency of production and thereby reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Students will spend equal time with academic and industry partners as they pursue projects that aim to improve analysis techniques for more efficient minerals processing, deliver advanced modelling applications for dynamic minerals processing and provide technology-enhanced training for future minerals processing professionals. An additional key aim is to investigate and develop a more gender-balanced workforce in the raw materials sector. 

In addition to Trinity, the network includes a further academic partner (Lulea University of Technology), which is a world-leader in this field and has excellent industry connections. The third participant is Finnish company, Outotec Oyj, which is an internationally active company with a revenue of €1 billion and 4,200 employees. Other industry partners include Swedish mining company, Boliden, UK equipment company, Oxford Instruments, and and Finnish mining companies, IMA and Agnico Eagle Kittila.   

Mineral processing involves a number of different sectors that traditionally worked quite independently. This network will disrupt sector compartmentalisation by training six PhD students through a multi-disciplinary network.

MetalIntelligence also aims to better communicate the importance of raw materials production to the general public, for example, by developing computer games that interactively engage young people with the sector.

Professor Balz Kamber, Trinity, said: “The project will train and equip a new generation of leaders in the minerals processing field and provide lasting novel technological and training methods to build capacity in this growing area thus further establish the EU’s leadership position in minerals processing.”

“Minerals prospecting and processing is an employment growth market with over 350,000 people employed in the sector within the EU. Mineral processing contributes significantly to national carbon footprints (e.g. 5% in Australia), which means there is great potential for energy use reduction.”

“A newly trained, highly skilled workforce is needed to develop the next-generation method of dynamic and efficient minerals processing. At the interface between computational science, geoanalysis and modelling, MetalIntelligence students will help to shape the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

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