Strategic metals are a group of elements present in the Earth in very small quantities, but which are critical in certain production processes (electronics, catalytic converters, etc.). The huge economic importance of these materials is combined with a high risk. Should the supply of them fail, the whole production industry that uses them would collapse and so would the spare-part industry. That is why the obtaining of strategic materials using waste has been recognised by the "European Innovation Partnership" as a cornerstone to mitigate this risk and ensure the competitiveness of companies.
SUW energy recovery facilities, such as those managed by URBASER in various European countries, generate two types of waste: ash from gas stream treatment (with two different characteristics) and slag obtained directly from furnaces. The ash is generated in a proportion of 3-5% with respect to the weight of the original waste, while the slag constitutes 20% of the original weight. Right now, these "waste" materials are basically disposed of in landfills. The technology underpinning the pilot plant developed allows an integral process to be applied allowing all the metals contained in these "new raw materials" to be recycled, both minority ones of great added value and majority ones (Zn, Pb, Cu, etc.).
The project has been undertaken through the FARM consortium that brings together the necessary scientific, technical and business know-how to assess the technical, economic, commercial and environmental feasibility of the solutions developed. URBASER, the project coordinator, has provided the raw materials, the potential market and its expertise in terms of energy recovery facilities. TECNALIA has developed recovery technologies based on pyro-hydrometallurgical concentration processes, and the POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY OF MADRID has studied alternatives based on minerallurgical technologies.
The FARM project, which was concluded in 2016, and which was developed within the framework of the CHALLENGES-COLLABORATION call 2014 of the Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness, has enabled this pilot plant to be developed. This plant allows these high-added-value metals to be obtained by means of energy recovery from SUW.