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It’s all in an ever changing cycle | (mineral) fine particle processing in times of circular economy and energy transition

Rudolph, M.


Humanity has always felt itself to be in the area of conflict between innovative technological developments aimed at positively influencing the quality of life, the limited available resources and the sometimes destructive effects on our environment. In 2011, motivated by the demonstrably severe impact on the Earth‘s climate of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 produced by the burning of fossil fuels, as well as the nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, political leaders called for a transition to renewable energies.

This necessitates the large-scale employment of new technologies, such as electric cars, efficient wind turbines with magnets containing rare earths and hydrogen technologies. This development is strongly influencing the material mix and thus the raw material requirements. The complexity of the composite materials, with their extremely complex, polymetallic character and fine distribution of raw materials, is characteristic of many new technological developments, as famously exemplified by the material mix in smartphones, which contains numerous elements of the periodic table.

The availability of metals and mineral resources is a critical factor in a healthy economy, especially one that is also striving to be a circular economy. For thermodynamic reasons, such an economy cannot be closed, i.e. in addition to secondary resources; primary resources always have to play a role.

This lecture shall outline the recent developments and research topics in the field of mineral processing in times of the circular economy and energy transition where a mineral is understand as more than just a naturally occurring crystalline material but will more and more be artificial. I would like to (self critically) highlight where the art of the modern mineral processing expertise is needed and how batteries, hydrogen electrolyzers and engineered artificial minerals in industrial slags can be seen as examples of the raw materials of the future of an efficient circular economy with as little as possible primary production.

  • Open Access Logo Invited lecture (Conferences) (Online presentation)
    CoE Minerals Signature Series, 29.09.2021, Melbourne, Australia



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