ETN SULTAN releases new video: “Waste from the past, houses for the future”

EU MSCA-ETN SULTAN, the European Training Network for the remediation and reprocessing of sulphidic mining waste sites, has launched a new video describing the project approach for the remining of present-day tailings storage facilities and historical mining waste sites. The video describes the 3D modelling applied to determine the value contained in tailing deposits; the metal extraction to recover valuable metals and to remove hazardous elements; the use of the bulk mineral fraction for production of construction materials. SULTAN partner Wienerberger explains how tailings are used to produce sustainable construction materials such as ceramic bricks.

The new SULTAN video, featuring both SULTAN Early Stage Researchers and academic/industrial supervisors, was developed in cooperation with the award-winning production house Storyrunner. It can be viewed here:

Waste from the past, houses for the future

Wienerberger has around 200 production units all over the world. Aleading being a key player in the global building industry, it strives to become more sustainable by using more eco-friendly raw materials in its production processes. Thanks to the European Research project SULTAN, they have found a new one: mining waste.

In this new video the EU SULTAN team members explain the project approach that is followed to assess the value present in both historical mining waste sites and present-day tailing storage facilities. Subsequently, they highlight which steps need to be taken to valorise the tailings. This process comprises the extraction of the metals and the use of the bulk materials for production of construction materials.

SULTAN project coordinator Philippe Muchez (KU Leuven) elaborates on the 3D modelling approach followed to describe the spatial variation of tailing deposits. Models have been developed for small-scale historical sites, such as the Plombières site in Belgium and present day tailing storage facilities, such as the Neves Corvo tailings storage facility in Portugal.

While reprocessing of tailings for their metal value is an existing business, most tailing deposits contain insufficient metal value to allow economic treatment. Because of this, a combined remediation & value recovery approach is proposed by SULTAN. On the one hand, hazardous elements and sulphides are removed so as to avoid problems such as acid mine drainage. On the other hand revenues can be obtained through the metal recovery process along with the valorisation of the bulk mineral fraction as a raw material for construction products, such as ceramics.

Want to learn more? Join the Symposium (Re)mining extractive waste, a new business? May 17-18 (Mechelen, Belgium)

With the ETN SULTAN project entering its final phase, the project organises the Symposium "(Re)Mining Extractive Waste, a new Business?" on May 17-18, 2022 in Mechelen, Belgium. Co-organisers are EU NEMO and SIM² KU Leuven. Registration and abstract submission are now open. The deadline for abstract submission is February 28, 2022. All key info can be found here:

Background on the H2020 MSCA-ETN SULTAN project and research output

For more than 100 years the EU mining industries have been discarding their extractive-waste residues. Estimates suggest this represents 29% of the EU-28’s current waste output. When poorly managed these residues are a significant environmental hazard. Sulphidic Cu-Zn, Zn-Pb and Cu-Zn-Pb tailings pose the largest challenge, as they are prone to acid mine drainage.

However, these tailings also contain valuable metals. Recently, the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Raw Materials launched a “call to arms” to transform the “extractive-waste problem” into a “resource-recovery opportunity”. Additionally, the EIP has warned about the acute shortage of talent in this sector.

In order to develop a highly skilled workforce, to mitigate environmental risks and to economically recover valuable raw materials, the ETN for the remediation and reprocessing of sulphidic mining waste sites (SULTAN) provides the first-ever training programme dedicated to the reprocessing of tailings. SULTAN has pooled the interdisciplinary and intersectoral expertise of leading EIT RawMaterials members, world-leading mining and chemical companies, covering all the links in the tailings-reprocessing value chain.

SULTAN develops cutting-edge methodologies to assess the resource potential of Europe’s main tailings families (WP1) and explores eco-friendly mining chemicals to be used in advanced metal-extraction/recovery set-ups (WP2). SULTAN not only recovers the metals but also valorises the clean(ed) tailing residues in circular-economy applications, incl. inorganic polymers, green cements and ceramics (WP3). In WP4 a novel environmental assessment methodology is developed.

The 15 SULTAN ESRs also benefit from a unique soft-skills training programme (WP5) and maximise the impact of their research through dissemination and exploitation (WP6). This will kick-start their careers as highly employable professionals in the EU’s tailings reprocessing/remediation sector, as well as for geological surveys, teaching and scientific organisations, and public bodies. More info on the SULTAN project can be found on the SULTAN website:

Thematic Section in Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy

As a result of the SULTAN project, a Thematic Section within the Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy has been published, comprising 10 research papers on the different aspects of the SULTAN (near-) zero-waste reprocessing value chain for Europe’s extractive waste. The full section is now available at the Springer website.

The preface of the thematic section, summarising the main bottlenecks and opportunities encountered in the (re)mining of sulphidic mining waste, can be read here: Preface to the Thematic Section: Mine Tailings: Problem or Opportunity? Towards a Combined Remediation and Resource Recovery Approach.


The SULTAN project has received funding from the European Union's EU Framework Programmefor Research and Innovation H2020 under Grant Agreement No 812580

ETN SULTAN coordinator Prof. Philippe Muchez (SIM² KU Leuven)