European Commission - Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

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European Pilot Plant Network for Extractive Metallurgy and Mineral Processing

Acronym: 
MetNet
Objectives of the commitment: 

1. To create an independent and collaborative network to provide services & facilities for up-scaling of metallurgical and mineral processes in Europe.
Pooling expertise of existing up-scaling facilities in Europe to create an easy-access holistic pilot-plant facility network for mineral processing and metallurgical treatment that will enable ideas and research to come into industrial use faster.
2. Securing competence for European industry in metallurgy and mineral processing.
Strengthening competences by providing access to industrial environment for graduates, post-graduates, other academics and technical staff from industry for practical training to convert theoretical knowledge into practice.
3. Boost innovation and job creation.
Initiating joint cross-sectorial projects for innovative metallurgy and mineral processing and acting as an independent technological “think-tank”. The combination of knowledge and processes at the facilities will lead to the development of new techniques and offers, securing future supply of raw materials and metals in Europe and supporting the development of new activities and companies, e.g. technology providers.

Description of the activities: 

Production of metals is capital-intensive and failed investments in production facilities can lead to serious or catastrophic consequences for the company or investor. To minimize risks and to develop efficient processes, pilot-plant trials are of great importance. A pilot plant is a facility where process unit, equipment, integrated process and process parameters can be tested in a certain scale (few hundred kgs to a couple of tonnes), in continuous conditions with the intention to provide knowledge for a decision whether to invest or not. Consequently, access to pilot plants is necessary to bring ideas or concepts into industrial use, i.e. “Crossing the valley of death”.

There are several existing metallurgical and mineral processing pilot plants in Europe which cover many different aspects of mineral processing, metallurgy and production of metals including critical raw materials, CRMs. The infrastructure and the conditions can vary widely and knowledge about their existence can be limited. The network intends to bring the existing facilities together in order to create a “one stop shop” provider of services for the European industry, to market it, make it operational and able to serve all of Europe. By bringing already existing operational facilities together, it is possible to get a “kick start” and the platform can operate from day one at relatively small expense.

It is necessary for European industry (mining and metals industry and technology providers) to have access to a network of knowledge that can work cross-sectorially and innovatively by combining the expertise of all members. Flexibility and speed will be enhanced and solutions will come into industrial use faster and more efficiently. Future needs and challenges are not known, but the flexibility and versatility of the platform and the cooperation between different stakeholders enables industry to respond to these challenges more efficiently.

It is likely that there are blank spots in services or facilities which no one covers today; therefore, additional investments in equipment or people have to be considered. To become attractive to industry and academia the platform must work independently of commercial or political bodies on a non-profit basis and under strict confidentiality.
Activities;
1. Building the network (2014)
- Map competences and equipment and ongoing projects
- Decide the model for the organization, including legal aspects such as confidentiality, IPR, legal status of the network
- Create the network with a core group of providers of metallurgical and/or mineral processing competence and pilot equipment. The core partners of are; Swerea MEFOS in Sweden, IMN in Poland, CEA in France, GTK in Finland, BRGM in France and ELKEM in Norway
- Create a partner advisory board consisting of relevant industrial companies and academia. The advisory partners will contribute with their professional input to the network such as a) ideas, theoretical basis and research news from the academia and b) industrial needs and experience. The partners are also expected to contribute in order to create, initialize and participate in research and pilot projects in – for each project – relevant consortia. So far the following partners are supporting the platform ;
o Companies : Aurubis, ZGH Bolesław, Outotec, Stena metall, LKAB, Eramet, Eyde a cluster organization and motor for industrial development in South-Norway
o Academia: AGH University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Non-ferrous Metals, Cracow, Poland, Institute of Non-ferrous and Rare Metals, Bucharest, Romania, Oulu mining school and Aalto University, Finland, Luleå university of Technology Sweden, Sintef and Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

2. Create the offer and market (2014- no foreseen end date)
- Joint marketing and communication plan
- Set up a common website
- A common procedure to handle calls and inquiries openly and efficiently.
- Joint marketing activities (participating at conferences, expos etc)
- Special focus will be placed on reaching SMEs using existing channels such as Enterprise European Network.

3. Joint projects (2015-2020)
- Workshops and seminars with industrial and academic partners to find innovative project ideas and to increase the pace in industrialization of ideas and concepts
- Develop joint long-term projects

4. Develop the position (2015-2016)
- Gap analysis to find out what is missing in equipment/processes and people/skills
- Plan for how to proceed to fill the gaps
- Position a "think thank" providing expertise in mineral processing and metallurgy, acting as an adviser for policy makers, member states, stakeholders, investors

5. Collaboration with other Raw Material Commitments
- The development of MetNet will be in collaboration with other RMC, especially EuROPEM, the European research network on ore processing and extractive metallurgy and EIH, the Creation of a European Hydrometallurgical Institute.

Description of the expected impacts: 

1. Minimising risk for industrial investments
Less risk and higher hit-rate in investments for new or modified mineral processing and metallurgical processes or procedures. The ability to safely bring projects from low TRL (and relatively low investment level) to high TRL (and relatively high investments) is crucial for a sustainably successful industrial implementation of new projects, new raw materials or innovative processes. The MetNet will provide such opportunity for the European industrial community.
2. Faster industrialisation
More low TRL projects tested for industrialization. New complex innovative technologies developed by combination of existing technologies. SMEs will have better access to competence, testing facilities and qualification/verification. Supporting/boosting the re-industrialisation of Europe and thereby creating safer jobs.
3. More efficient and sustainable use of raw material and energy
Sharing knowledge in “the art of scaling up”, which is a major concern when bringing ideas to industrial work. Enhance environment and economy indicators by using raw materials in a more efficient way and producing more value and less waste by combining expertise, knowledge and different industrial sectors and testing the concepts in close-to-industry scale via swift and borderless cooperation within the network.
Combining knowledge from different material processing industries will develop more energy-efficient processes and minimize energy losses.

Expected innovation outcomes: 
New processes
New services
New technologies
New business models
New ideas to the market
Comments: 

By uniting the existing expertise, new ideas that are still at a low TRL level with individual experts willbe discussed, combined with other ideas from other experts, reshaped, tested and result in innovation. In this case, the network will provide the green-house and the gardeners for the ideas. As a result, more ideas will reach the market and more projects come into industrialization.

Recovery of metals/materials/CRM will be enhanced, simply because it becomes much easier to test the ideas.

Since most Critical Raw Materials are derived from by-products of major (or carrier) metals or concentrated in residue or as emissions, MetNet will play an important role for the CRM industry in Europe in the future.

Name of the coordinating organisation: 
Swerea MEFOS
Country: 
Sweden
Entity profile: 
Other
Other: 
Nonprofit research centre
Role within the commitment: 

Coordinating the network. Running activities related to pyro metallurgy pilot trials.

Other partners: 
Name of partner: 
Instytut Metali Niezelaznych (Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals)
Country: 
Poland
Entity profile: 
Other
Other: 
Research Centre
Role within the commitment: 
Partnership in creation of the network, running activities related to laboratory and pilot-scale studies into ore treatment and metallurgical metal recovery. Operation of laboratories and pilot installations for beneficiation of primary and secondary resources, metal recovery by pyro- and hydrometallurgical processes, environmental studies and chemical analyses
Name of partner: 
BRGM (French Geological Survey)
Country: 
France
Entity profile: 
Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: 
Partnership for the creation of the network. Contribution to joined marketing activities. Contribution to joined project using laboratory and pilot-scale facilities in mineral processing and hydrometallurgy (including bio). Operation of laboratories and pilot installations for beneficiation of primary and secondary resources, metal recovery by pyro- and hydrometallurgical processes, environmental studies and chemical analyses
Name of partner: 
Geological Survey of Finland (GTK)
Country: 
Finland
Entity profile: 
Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: 
GTK’s Mineral Processing Laboratory (GTK Mintec) provides a wide range of ore beneficiation research services for the mining industry. GTK Mintec’s research includes everything from mineralogical research and laboratory-scale beneficiation tests to continuous test runs at the pilot scale. GTK Mintec’s role is to offer its expertise in pilot-scale mineral processing to the Pilot Plant Network.
Name of partner: 
CEA
Country: 
France
Entity profile: 
Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: 
Coordinator of the project of creation of the European Hydrometallurgical Institute (EHI), which will be the hydrometallurgy platform of the MetNet network. CEA will contribute to the abovementionned activities until the EHI is mature enough to overtake.
Name of partner: 
ERAMET Research
Country: 
France
Entity profile: 
Private sector - large company
Role within the commitment: 
ERAMET is a mining and metallurgical company operating beneficiation, pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy plants worldwide. At ERAMET Research, the performance of operating processes are being improved and new metallurgical processes are being developed to extract valuable metals from a resource (whether primary or secondary). ERAMET & ERAMET Research will capitalize on its experience and know-how to contribute to the project, by participating to the governance of the network as well as by making available its significant hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy pilot scale equipment and its expertise in developing bankable integrated metallurgical processes.
Name of partner: 
Luleå University of Technology
Country: 
Sweden
Entity profile: 
Academia
Role within the commitment: 
Participation in pre-competitive R&D work in the areas of mineral processing and extractive metallurgy including both pyro- and hydrometallurgy.
Name of partner: 
Elkem Technology R&D Technical center
Country: 
Norway
Entity profile: 
Other
Other: 
R&D technical center
Role within the commitment: 
Elkem Technology R&D Technical Center is a complete service provider on metallurgical high temperature process- and product development. The center also offers hydrometallurgical processing, mechanical design and installation, chemical analysis and materials characterization on a wide variety of metals and alloys
Existing EU contribution: 
No
Period to implement the commitment: 
Wednesday, 1 January, 2014 to Saturday, 31 December, 2016