Geological Survey of Finland’s GTK Mintec is a pilot plant and laboratory complex for circular economy and mineral processing located in Outokumpu. It is one of its kind in Europe. The Regional Council of North Karelia will allocate 3.3 M€ to GTK Mintec’s research projects promoting sustainable mining and the circular economy. The result of the projects will be a completely new research and innovation platform for the study of mineral-based side streams and management of extractive waste, in connection with GTK Mintec. There is no such platform anywhere else in the world.
GTK Mintec’s development is progressing rapidly. The Regional Council of North Karelia has decided to fund two research projects with EU funds. The SMARTTEST project will develop a smart circular economy field testing platform for extractive waste and side streams in 2023–2026. The project will receive 809,000 € from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The MINECOIN project will develop an innovation platform for sustainable mineral economics in 2023–2025. It will receive 2.5 M€ from the Just Transition Fund (JTF). The total funding for the projects is approx. 4.6 M€, including approximately 170,000 € in corporate funding and approximately 1.2 M€ from GTK.
Innovation platform for sustainable mineral economics
The MINECOIN investment project will create an innovation platform for sustainable mineral economics. Research platforms for long-term field testing of extractive waste and developing its reuse will be built at the GTK Mintec pilot plant and research laboratories.
The project will also renew the current tailing area of the pilot plant with an instrumented smart tailings pond. The necessary research equipment will be procured for the SMARTTEST test field for research on extractive waste management methods. In addition, tailings dewatering equipment will be installed at the pilot plant for the pre-treatment of research materials.
Smart circular economy field testing facility for extractive waste and side streams
Extractive waste, especially tailings and waste rock, is one of the largest industrial side streams. Waste management is a key issue in the environmental safety, social acceptability, and economic viability of mines.
The SMARTTEST project will develop a field-testing facility and concept to investigate circular economy and extractive waste management solutions in long-term field tests already during the mineral process development phase of a mine. Testing the long-time behaviour of extractive waste and its management solutions should start as early as possible in the mine’s life cycle to ensure the performance of the selected solutions and environmental protection structures.
“Extractive waste has significant circular economy potential, and other circular economy materials can also be used in their management. This has been researched and developed at GTK for a long time in various projects. The introduction of modern disposal techniques in Nordic climate requires testing, as does the use of circular economy materials in, for example, earth construction. The use of dewatered disposal techniques contributes to the recycling of mine process waters,” explains Päivi Kauppila, Chief Expert at GTK.
Outokumpu Mining Hub creates an extractive industry cluster to enable a green transition
Earlier, in September 2023, the Regional Council of North Karelia granted funding for the Outokumpu Mining Hub project. It will be implemented by Business Joensuu Oy and GTK. Outokumpu Mining Hub consists of GTK Mintec’s renewed laboratory and pilot plant, GTK’s mining environment research services, and the entity formed by the companies in the value network and Business Joensuu Oy. The cluster will tackle key challenges for the extractive industry. The total funding for the project is approximately 750,000 €, of which 75% is ERDF funding.