Mines and nonferrous metal smelters produce large amounts of mineral wastes. These materials can either be considered as environmentally hazardous materials or potential resources of valuable elements. In this project we will focus on binding and release mechanisms for priority pollutants (Cu, Cd, Pb, Zn, Ni, Cr, As, Sb) and “less studied” technologically critical elements, which could be potentially recovered from these wastes (Co, Ga, Ge, In). The applicant will first use various mineralogical techniques (XRD, SEM/EDS, EPMA, HRTEM, autoSEM) to understand the solid speciation of the elements of interest in the studied mine tailings and metallurgical slags originating from various mining districts of sub-Saharan Africa. The leaching behaviours of the wastes will be assessed through the whole battery of leaching/extraction test (kinetic batch tests, pH-static and percolation column tests) to simulate the release of contaminants under specific environmental conditions. Extraction tests simulating hydrometallurgical agitation leaching will be adopted to determine the potential recovery of valuable metals from the studied wastes. The results of this project will provide new insights into the leaching properties of waste materials in view of their future recycling and reuse, considered as the key steps in the circular economy.

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