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Circular Economy of Minerals

The global demand for metals and minerals is growing because of the clean transition. Our research activities focus on the processing of mineral raw materials and circular economy research.

Joukko pyöreitä mineraalisampleja pyöreässä muodossa, keskellä tummempi laatta

Changes in the global operating environment are intensifying the need for research of the circular economy of minerals, raw material processing and sustainable mining. Geopolitical and trade policy changes affect the availability of strategic raw materials and security of supply. The rapid growth in demand is combined with the impoverishment of ores coming into production as well as waste reduction targets. This leads to pressure to solve new kinds of material, energy, water and chemical efficiency issues. In the mining sector, for example, the utilisation of side streams together with water consumption and emission reduction have become key issues.

The circular economy of minerals means maintaining the value of mineral-based products and materials in the material cycle for as long as possible. This requires, for example, the utilisation of side streams from mining operations and the recovery of valuables from tailings and process waters. The material-wise processing of mineral raw materials requires the use of efficient enrichment methods. Sustainable mining refers to reducing the environmental impact of mining and reducing waste. New research aims to optimise the use and recyclability of materials and water throughout the processing chain and to reduce the carbon and environmental footprint of operations.

We develop responsible methods for the utilization of primary and secondary raw materials, the recyclability and traceability of mineral raw materials, and water treatment.

For example, we test efficient enrichment methods and develop new management solutions and utilization models for side streams. We study the recovery and environmental management of minerals from old extractive waste sites, as well as the recycling of process water and the recovery of valuables from water.

The methods we develop can be used in both the public and private sectors, especially in the mining industries, the metal and chemical industries and the civil engineering industry. In addition, the methods are used in various research communities both in Finland and abroad. With new methods and services for customers, we contribute to the clean transition, sustainable mining, circular economy investments and security of supply in Finland and the EU. We also support the achievement of Finland’s climate targets and the objectives of the EU regulation on critical raw materials.

In terms of the circular economy of minerals and raw material independence, we work closely with various technology and research partners, for example in EU-level project research. In addition, we act as an expert in social discourse related to sustainable mining and the circular economy of minerals. Our key research infrastructure for the circular economy of minerals is located in Outokumpu (GTK Mintec) and Espoo (Research Laboratory).

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