Finland Holds a Trump Card for Mineral Processing and Growth in the Circular Economy

The growing demand for raw materials calls for investments in higher recyclability. The concentrations of new excavated minerals are lower than before and require more processing. This is why new and more efficient processing methods are needed, to increase material and energy efficiency as well. The Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) responds to these needs by investing in research and services that promote these areas. Finland holds a trump card – GTK Mintec, a research infrastructure in the mineral and circular economy sector.

In the control room of GTK Mintec's test factory, 2 people look at the screens and follow the process
GTK Mintec promotes by researching and testing the enrichability of mineral and mineral-based materials, as well as the recyclability of various side streams.

In addition to the energy transition, the geopolitical situation has increased the need for critical raw materials and highlighted the availability of raw materials and the need to improve self-sufficiency in Finland and the EU. The European Commission proposes a comprehensive set of actions to ensure the secure, diversified, affordable and sustainable supply of in the regulatory proposal for critical raw materials (Critical Raw Materials Act).

According to the proposal, the EU should be able to recycle at least 15 per cent of its annual consumption of strategic raw materials. Currently, there are differences in the recycling rate of various raw materials, and there is also room for improvement in many areas. In addition, the EU should be able to process at least 40 per cent of its annual consumption of strategic raw materials. Both these goals are ambitious, and there is demand for new solutions.

GTK Mintec studies and tests the processing of minerals and mineral-based materials, as well as the recyclability of various side streams. The goal is to recover valuable components more effectively from raw materials and significantly reduce the volume of unusable materials. The mining industry generates considerable volumes of waste and side streams, and their utilisation is a growing industry which is raising more and more interest. This has also been addressed in the regulatory proposal.

“Solutions that promote recyclability are in huge demand. Finland should seize this opportunity. We have unique research and innovation expertise to benefit the circular economy and the promotion of sustainable mining in Finland and globally,” says Kimmo Tiilikainen, Director General.

Based in Outokumpu, GTK Mintec is the only research infrastructure in Europe which combines mineral research laboratories with an industrial-scale pilot processing plant. Testing on the industrial scale is a requirement for investment decisions, both in terms of primary and secondary raw materials. At the same time, an optimally efficient and ecological production process can be developed. In addition to GTK Mintec, there are only three similar pilot plants in the world.

Currently, Senate Properties is building a new office and laboratory building for GTK Mintec, and its topping-out ceremony was held earlier this week. To respond to this growing demand, GTK is planning to expand the pilot plant by increasing its capacity and services.

“The increase in capacity should be ensured by investing in the modernisation and development of GTK Mintec. This would be the best Finland can do for the security of supply in Finland and Europe,” says Tiilikainen.

GTK Mintec in brief

  • A research infrastructure and platform in the mineral and circular economy sector based in Outokumpu
  • A unique mineralogy and processing technology laboratory and pilot plant for mineral processing in Europe
  • Providing services for Finnish and global customers, the public sector and research communities
  • The production process needed to use mineral deposits as a whole can be tested on the scale required by customers
  • GTK Mintec is part of the Outokumpu Sustainable Mining Solutions Hub, the North Karelia scientific community, and the new Circular Raw Materials Hub research infrastructure in Otaniemi in Espoo

Further information

GTK Mintec web page

Kimmo Tiilikainen, Director General
Geological Survey of Finland (GTK)
Tel.: +358 29 503 2200