Plenary address presented by Bernadette Currie at the Copper Cobalt Africa Conference, Zambia, 12 June 2018.
Hydrometallurgical approaches for recycling secondary sources are similar to those used for the separation and recovery of scarce and valuable metals from primary feed (ores), employing acid leach, solvent extraction, precipitation and electrowinning. When these techniques are applied to recover specific elements from secondary feed sources, such as recycled end-of-life industrial products and e-waste, it is referred to as urban mining.
The main drivers for urban mining are a limited, finite supply of raw minerals used in the electronics, electric vehicle and renewable energy industries, coupled with growing global demand and the need for more responsible use of the earth’s resources.
The presentation highlighted how the hydrometallurgical methods used for traditional treatment of ores can be used for the recovery of metal elements from e-waste streams. It also presented opportunities for mineral processing experts for innovation and leadership in urban mining, owing to the overlap of know-how and relevant technologies. The discussion focused on the benefits to society, challenges and factors impacting global implementation of urban mining.