Recovery of Tungsten, Niobium and Tantalum occurring as by-products in mining and processing waste streams
The extraordinary properties of refractory metals, the unlikeliness of their future substitution and their use in booming industries will sustain a high EU demand for tungsten (W), niobium (Nb) and tantalum (Ta). Despite all three being classified as Critical Raw Materials (CRM) by the European Commission (EC), fractions of these indispensable metals are dissipated as by-products in mining waste streams as well as process scrap. To stimulate their recovery from such complex, low-grade resources, TARANTULA will develop a suite of cost-effective, scalable and eco-friendly – bio-, hydro-, iono-, solvo-, pyro- and electro-metallurgical – processes with high selectivity and recovery rates. These novel technologies, each representing an alternative for one or more process steps of state-of-the-art (SoA) processing lines, will form new routes towards market-ready metals, metal oxides and metal carbides. Flexibility will be the cornerstone of the overall process flowsheet to enable recovery of all three elements (W, Nb, Ta), thereby minimising the CAPEX required for future processing installations. Following systematic research and innovation activities at lab scale, the envisioned technologies will be brought to TRL3-5 and, based on performance, validated at prototype level by experienced industrial partners. In parallel, future by-product recovery will be supported by carrying out a comprehensive identification and assessment of existing un/underexploited secondary sources of W, Nb and Ta. The generated information – in compliance with all pertinent laws and regulations - will feed into the Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) which will boost the impact of the project far beyond the current consortium. Finally, TARANTULA will blueprint tailored Communication, Dissemination and Civil Society Engagement strategies with respect to obtaining and maintaining the “Social License to Operate” for future heavy-duty metallurgical processing.