Resource and environmental cost of transforming mining wastes into valuable products: From flotation tailings to catalysts

Llamas, Korolev, Altinkay, Nikolopoulos, Haapalainen, Kolehmainen, Lundström, Geitenbeek, Weckhuysen, Stelter, Reuter

Published in Proceedings of the IMPC2020 Congress, SAIMM


Having a circular society where the residue generation is minimised is one of the challenges of our society. The mineral processing sector generates a large quantity of residues, e.g. flotation tailings, which are disposed of in tailings dams and ponds occupying a large land area and creating potential environmental problems, e.g. acid drainage or dam failures. Therefore, their treatment to convert them into valuable products is an interesting option.

A simulation-based study of the resource efficiency and environmental impact of producing catalysts from sulfidic mining flotation tailings is performed. Three different scenarios have been evaluated and compared; (i) “do-nothing” scenario, i.e. flotation tailings to dam; (ii) catalyst production directly from flotation tailings; (iii) recovery of gold through leaching and electrodeposition from the flotation tailings followed by catalyst production from the leaching residue.

The flow rates, compositions and thermochemical properties of all the flows are obtained through the mass and energy balances performed by the simulation platform (HSC Sim, HSC Chemistry 10). This provides indicators related to the production performance of the process, as well as the residues and emissions generated during the treatment of the flotation tailings. Additionally, the resource consumption is evaluated from a systemic perspective through an exergy and thermoeconomic analysis as well as performing a simulation-based Life Cycle Assessment to obtain the environmental impact of the process. Once these simulation-based indicators are obtained, the impact on the feasibility of the process from the point of view of resource efficiency and environmental impact is evaluated.


Resource efficiency evaluation, process simulation, metal recovery from residues, flotation tailings valorisation, exergy, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)


This research has received funding from the European Union Framework Program for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under Grant Agreement No. 721385 (EU MSCA-ETN SOCRATES; project website:


A. Abadías Llamas a*, I. Korolev b, c, P. Altinkaya b, c, N. Nikolopoulos d, M.Haapalainen b, E. Kolehmainen b, M.Lundström c, R. G. Geitenbeek d, B. M. Weckhuysen d, M. Stelter e,andM.A. Reuter a

aHelmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology, Chemnitzerstr. 40, Freiberg 09599, Germany

bOutotec Research Center, PO Box 69, Kuparitie 10, Pori 28101, Finland

cHydrometallurgy and Corrosion, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Aalto University, PO Box 16200, Vuorimiehentie 2, Espoo 02150, Finland

dInorganic Chemistry and Catalysis, Deby

e Institute for Nanomaterials Science, Utrecht University, Universiteitsweg 99, Utrecht 3584 CG, The Netherlands

eInstitute for Nonferrous Metallurgy and Purest Materials, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Leipzigerstr. 34, Freiberg 09599, Germany

*Corresponding author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Purchase full IMPC20 proceedings and papers here