NEMO – Near Zero Waste – Recycling of low-grade sulfidic mining waste

VTT- The Technical Research Centre of Finland


Project coordinator: Mika Paajanen (VTT, Finland)

E-mail:            Phone: Tel. exchange +358 20 722 111          Address: VUORIMIEHENTIE 3, 02150 Espoo, Finland

Contact persons:

Communication and dissemination (KU Leuven, Belgium):
Peter Tom Jones (KU Leuven, Belgium) –                            
Giorgian Dinu (KU Leuven, Belgium) – and             

Science & Technology coordination: Lieven Machiels (KULeuven, Belgium)

Civil society engagement: Piet Wostyn (KU Leuven, Belgium)

References: more information you can find here, here here,  here, here.




WHERE: Europe (multinational project)
WHEN: Ongoing, Starting May, 2018.
WASTE MANAGEMENT HIERARCHY: Recycling: Reuse – Reprocessing    TYPE OF INSTRUMENT:  Voluntary
WASTE STREAMS: Mining waste

About: NEMO is the EU H2020 Innovation Action project targeting the near-zero-waste recycling of low-grade sulfidic mining waste. NEMO recovers valuable and critical metals, and converts the residual mineral fraction in cement, concrete and construction products.

EIP Raw Materials (the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials, a stakeholder platform that brings together representatives from industry, public services, academia and NGOs) launched in 2016 a „call to arms” to transform the „extractive-waste problem” into a „resource-recovery opportunity”, as „tailings” still contain valuable & critical metals.

Using a „4 PILOTS – one case-study” concept NEMO develops, demonstrates and exploits new ways to valorize sulphidic tailings. The case study is the Sotkamo Ni-Cu-Zn-REE/Sc mine in Finland. .


Photo Source: NEMO

The project objectives designed the 4 PILOTS located at key points in the near-zero-waste flowsheet, encompassing:
– the recovery of valuable & critical metals
– the safe concentration of hazardous elements
– the removal of sulphur as sulphate salts
– use the residual mineral fraction in cement, concrete and construction products.



The project is financed under EU Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020:
– Grant Agreement No. 776846
– Total cost: 14.941.396,50 EUR
– EU contribution: 12.407.294,63 EUR
– Start Date: 01.05.2018
– End Date: 30.04.2022


Project expected results: NEMO’s near-zero-waste technology will provide the EU with both direct and long-term, indirect advantages:
– New resources (e.g. base metals: Cu, Zn, Ni, critical metals: Eg. Sc, Nd, Y, Sb; SCM and aggregates etc.)
– CO2 savings from metal recovery and the replacement of Ordinary Portland Cement
– New job creation (> 150 FTEs – full time equivalent)
– New revenues (> 200 M€/year)
– Eradication of acid-mine drainage and other environmental issues
– Ensuring an enhanced dialogue (framework) between industry and civil society, to obtain and maintain the Social License to Operate in the EU.

Urban metabolism relevance

With an estimated volume of 600 Mtonne/yr and a historic stockpile of 28,000 Mtonne, sulphidic mining waste from the production of Cu, Pb, Zn and Ni, represents the largest volume of extractive waste in Europe. When poorly managed, these “tailings” may cause major environmental problems such as acid mine drainage.



NEMO project has been initiated as a response of the EIP Raw Materials, under the European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) – a new approach to EU research and innovation. By bringing together actors from the entire research and innovation value chain, they aim at streamlining efforts and accelerating market take-up of innovations that address key challenges for Europe.

EIT Raw Materials is one of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.


Engaged participatory processes


NEMO has established an interdisciplinary consortium, including 7 industrial partners (1 mining, 4 engineering, 1 machine manufacturing & 1 construction material company), 4 research institutes, 2 universities and 1 civil society group.

Also, NEMO is linked to the EURELCO Network , a network supporting the required technological, legal, social, economic, environmental and organizational innovation with respect to Enhanced Landfill Mining within the context of a transition to a resource efficient, circular, low-carbon economy.
EURELCO produces a monthly newsletter that contains info which is also very relevant for the NEMO community. This newsletter also provides regular Enhanced Landfill Mining (ELFM) Policy Brief sections, where the policy aspects of ELFM are investigated and where suggestions to policy makers are provided.

Sustainability and replicability

A key factor for the project’s sustainability and replicability is the multi-actor technical approach to improve existing processes and investigate new opportunities for future products. Also, the “zero waste” approach, which represents the core of project’s objectives, is the guarantee that the project is envisaging the applicability at larger-scale.

Other European projects focusing on efficiently use of raw materials:
1) The EU Horizon 2020 project METGROW+ (Zero-waste valorization of industrial process residues):
2) SOCRATES (European Training Network for the Sustainable, zero-waste valorization of critical-metal-containing industrial process residues):
3) ETN NEW-MINE, a twin project of SOCRATES (EU Training Network for Resource Recovery Through Enhanced Landfill Mining):
4) EURELCO deals with both Urban Solid Waste Landfills and mono-landfills containing extractive waste or industrial process residues.



Success Factors

Based on a multidisciplinary team (out of which stakeholders specialized in mining, constructions and research), the project strongly sustains an environmentally responsible mining sector, promoting not only a competitive mining sector, but also the innovation in this important economic sector, by analyze and development of better treatment and management technologies in waste processing, utilization and disposal, considering its near-zero-waste holistic approach.


Waste, Resources, Innovation.
Key Challenges
1) Reducing the environmental effects of mining and related activities (including neutralization of generated waste) is an important challenge for this sector;
2) Green mining technologies are new challenges, as they aim to find proactive and innovative technological solutions to ensure sustainable mining.



For more information, please contact the implementing body.

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