EGU21-7764, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Mine waste reuse and reprocessing: an important step for the implementation of the circular economy in Europe

Françoise Bodénan, Yannick Ménard, and Patrick d'Hugues
Françoise Bodénan et al.
  • BRGM, Orleans, France (

Whereas there are growing needs for mineral resources (metals for the energy and digital transitions
and construction materials), the mining industry must produce them from poorer, more
heterogeneous and more complex deposits. Therefore, volumes of mine waste produced (including
tailings) are also increasing and add up to waste from mining legacy. For example in Europe (x27): 732
Mtons of extractive waste are generated per year and more than 1.2 Btons of legacy waste are stored
all over the European territory. The localisation (and potential hazards) are well known and covered
by the inventories carried out in EU countries under the Mining Waste Directive.
At the same time, Europe is implementing the circular economy approach and put a lot of emphasis
on the resource efficiency concept. In this context, reprocessing operation to recover both metals and
mineral fraction is studied with the objective of combing waste management (reducing final waste
storage and long-term impact) and material production from secondary resources.
Numerous industrial experiences of reprocessing of mine waste and tailings exist all over the world to
recover metals such as copper, gold or critical raw materials - CRM They concern mainly active mine
where both primary and secondary resources are considered in profitable operations; for example in
Chile, South Africa, Australia. Mineral fraction recovery is often not considered which still leaves the
industry with a high volume of residual minerals to store and manage.
In addition, legacy mining waste are potentially available for reprocessing. In this case, numerous
mining liabilities issues need to be managed. Some of the European legacy mining waste have residual
valuable metals that could be recovered but some of them have very low metal contents. In Europe,
classical rehabilitation operations – usually at the charge of member states and local authorities – is
the priority and concern the reduction of instabilities and impacts to the environment including heap
remodelling, covering and water management with long-term treatment. Completing this risk
management approach by a circular economy one is a very active R&D subject in EU27.
This presentation will give an overview of EU research projects which tackled the legacy mining waste
challenge from inventory to process development. Several process flowsheets to recover metals were
designed and tested on several case studies with CRM – REE, Co, W, Sb, etc. Initiatives to reuse mineral
fraction are also underway and should be ready for commercialisation in the coming years.
Resources efficiency concept and the circular economy implementation starts on mining sites. In order
to facilitate the implementation of this approach, the technical solutions will need to be included in
innovative global initiatives covering also legal (liability management), environmental (Life Cycle
Analysis approaches) and social (acceptance) questions.

How to cite: Bodénan, F., Ménard, Y., and d'Hugues, P.: Mine waste reuse and reprocessing: an important step for the implementation of the circular economy in Europe, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7764,, 2021.

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