The British company Mineco, which manages several lead and zinc mines in the Western Balkans, has begun to work together with its partners on a big European project Impact that aims to launch a ‘mining revolution’ by finding the best methods for exploiting small metal deposits.
“Under this project, 10 partner organisations from Great Britain, France, Germany and Finland will focus on finding innovative ways of exploiting mineral resources on smaller sites, where exploitation with existing solutions is unprofitable,” said Dominic Roberts, Operations Director of Mineco Ltd, pointing out that the solutions obtained from the research should lead to a model that could be applied and sustainable across Europe.
According to him, participation in this project is an honour for the Mineco Group, but also evidence of correct behaviour in its practice of mine management. “Mineco is always reaching for innovative solutions and draws on international best practice to come up with the best exploitation model,” said Roberts.
In order to organize new world-class mines, companies at present need to invest in large infrastructure projects to meet quantitative requirements and to implement costly feasibility studies to prove the long-term commercial viability of potential sites. But the world economic crisis in the last decade has limited investment in this field, which has had a devastating effect on the raw materials sector and destabilised the metals market.
“This research is exciting because it can potentially identify a number of smaller deposits around the world that will ultimately improve the security of supply of materials for producers,” said Dr. Kathryn Moore, leading project expert, and lecturer in the field of critical and green technology metals in the Camborne School of Mines at the University of Exeter in Cornwall, UK.
The Impact project has received a €7 million grant from the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 to develop targeted, technological innovation in the design of mining equipment, and in planning in the field of mining. Team members say that innovation will not only reduce the need for feasibility studies, but will also improve the quality of the extracted material, infrastructure, land use, resource consumption and waste generation.
Dana Finch, Project Manager, also from the Camborne School of Mines, said that ethical issues were at the very core of the project.
The first test mine will be ‘Geomet’ in Olovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, owned by Mineco. Research will be conducted involving experts in the field of geoethics and social and environmental sustainability to discuss how the technology can be applied in the future.
Under the project, there will be a conference and a workshop organised in Olovo and Sarajevo in mid-May.
The Coordinator of the IMP@CT project Integrated Modular Plant Containerized Tools for Selective, Low-impact mining of Small High-grade Deposits is the University of Exeter, and the project is planned to be completed by 31 May 2020.