In cooperation with EIT RawMaterials, Atlantic Copper invited master’s students, graduates, and young professionals to tackle a strategic opportunity in the copper metallurgy industry, covering all the expenses of the Open Innovation Challenge for Young Professionals.

Extracting & utilising critical raw materials

Participants were tasked with developing sustainable methods for extracting and valorising fluorspar and arsenic from the copper metallurgy industry streams. These two materials were added to the Critical Raw Material list (CRM) by the EU in 2023.

During the challenge, participants were divided into five teams to develop recovery techniques while reflecting on market viability, ensuring practical and economically sound solutions. They received expert guidance from Atlantic Copper, the Polytechnique University of Catalunya (UPC) and EIT RawMaterials advisors throughout the process.

Teamwork a winning criterion

The participants from diverse geographic backgrounds collaborated remotely for a month before fine-tuning their solutions onsite in Huelva during the final week in early June. On the first day, the participants in the Challenges visited the Copper Smelter&Refinery of Atlantic Copper and for the rest of the days continued developing their solution in the University of Huelva hosted by the Chair of Atlantic Copper. On Thursday, the participants pitched their solution to a jury of experts from Atlantic Copper (Guillermo Rios and Irene Ruiz), the University of Huelva (Director Atlantic Copper Chair, Tamara Garcia), the Polytechnic University of Catalunya (José Luis Cortina) and EIT RawMaterials (Laurence Lamm).

Due to the high technical level demonstrated by all the participants, it was difficult for the jury to make a decision, but, the winning team consisting of Laskhmi Kanth Viswamsetty, India; Sugirtha Suresh, India; Tegar Budi Aguta, Indonesia; Sebeh Adjapong, Ghana and Ogonna Emenaha — impressed the jury with their innovative solution which demonstrated significant potential for optimal use of resources. The team’s effective collaboration and success in intercultural communication also played a key role in the jury’s final decision.

Each member of the winning team received a €500 prize. The event concluded with feedback sessions, during which experts discussed the strengths and potential improvements of each presented solution.

“This Open Innovation Challenge was the second challenge we organised with EIT RawMaterials. By collaborating with EIT RawMaterials, we gain access to top-notch students who bring fresh perspectives to important challenges in our industry. Partnerships like this are invaluable for fostering innovation and addressing key issues in the raw materials sector.”

— Guillermo Ríos, Innovation and Technology Director, Atlantic Copper

A unique opportunity for students to engage with industry leaders and experts

The challenge offered students a unique learning opportunity and Atlantic Copper a valuable chance to engage with up-and-coming talent as they prepare to enter the job market.

“Our collaboration with Atlantic Copper in this Open Innovation Challenge highlights the importance of combining academic knowledge with industry needs to address critical raw material challenges. This initiative not only brings forward innovative ideas but also cultivates a new generation of leaders equipped to drive sustainable practices in the metallurgy industry.”

— Bernd Schäfer, CEO and Managing Director, EIT RawMaterials.