European Training Network for the remediation and reprocessing of sulfidic miningwaste sites
For more than 100 years the EU mining industries have been discarding their extractive-waste residues. Estimates suggest this represents 29% of the EU-28’s current waste output. When poorly managed these residues are a significant environmental hazard. Sulfidic Cu-Zn, Zn-Pb and Cu-Zn-Pb tailings pose the largest challenge, as they are prone to acid mine drainage. However, these tailings also contain valuable metals. Recently, the EIP Raw Materials launched a “call to arms” to transform the “extractive-waste problem” into a “resource-recovery opportunity”. Additionally, the EIP has warned about the acute shortage of talent in this sector. In order to develop a highly skilled work force, to mitigate environmental risks and to economically recover valuable raw materials, the ETN for the remediation and reprocessing of sulfidic mining waste sites (SULTAN) provides the first-ever training programme dedicated to the reprocessing of tailings. SULTAN has pooled the interdisciplinary and intersectoral expertise of leading EIT RawMaterials members, world-leading mining and chemical companies, covering all links in the tailings-reprocessing value chain. SULTAN develops cutting-edge methodologies to assess the resource potential of Europe’s main tailings families (WP1) and explores eco-friendly mining chemicals for advanced metal-extraction/recovery set-ups (WP2). SULTAN not only recovers the metals but also valorises the clean(ed) tailing residues in circular-economy applications, incl. inorganic polymers, green cements and ceramics (WP3). In WP4 a novel environmental assessment methodology is developed. The 15 SULTAN ESRs benefit from a unique soft-skills training programme (WP5) and maximise the impact of their research through dissemination & exploitation (WP6). This kick-starts their careers as highly employable professionals in the EU’s tailings reprocessing/remediation sector, as well as for geological surveys, teaching and scientific organisations, and public bodies.