Project duration: 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2021

Mining stockpiles/tailings are strategic to recover Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), however, technological gaps still exist.

INCO-Piles will define best practices and promote technologies transfer by Round Tables with International experts. The target is to select game-changing techniques in minerals retreatment from stockpiles in MED/ESEE RIS area. Environmental and market issues will be assessed. Results will valorise innovations for future upscaling.


Mining of stones and metals has been a human activity since pre-historic times. Mining activity has been present everywhere in Europe, although nowadays the majority of mining sites have been closed. This does not mean that the resources have been completed depleted. Ancient mining could not benefit from the most modern extraction and processing techniques and has left significant amounts of residuals currently present in the territory in forms of semi-artificial hills, lakes and ponds. Some of them are completely stable and never reacted with the environment, while some others (especially those coming from metal mining) had significantly modified the environment where they have been stocked. Today, in Europe the resources of metals have been reduced, while the use has increased. The consequence of this is an increase in imports, to provide raw materials to high technology industries. Moreover, many materials had grown their importance due to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and battery needs.

The main objective of INCO-Piles project is to sum up, establish and develop innovative technologies for the sustainable extraction of CRMs from mining activities residual with the focus on RIS strategic areas. 

The specific objectives are:

  1. A comprehensive review of sampling, characterization and processing techniques, which can be applied to stockpiles/tailings.
  2. Data collection and analysis from existing piles in ESEE and MED countries.
  3. Valorisation of a real application from ESEE and MED countries for the retreatment of CRMs.
  4. Evaluation of economic profitability of recovering CRMs from mining residuals, in a sustainable way.
  5. Creation of significant links between EIT RawMaterials partners and companies from RREM countries to exchange knowledge on the value chain of recovery CRMs from stockpiles/tailings.

The solution (technology)

The Project INCO-Piles aims to understand the value of some particular types of metal stockpiles and tailings in Balkans and Mediterranean Countries. It is a Cooperation Project, with partners belonging to Universities, Research Centres and Industries and the involvement of international experts from active mining countries.

The Consortium will analyse the most updated and innovative techniques, methods and processes to recover raw materials, critical for European industries, from stockpiles and tailings. A specific case study will be selected, where to perform preliminary analysis for understanding the economic value of a possible re-mining in the future. Especially for the case study, environmental aspects will be addressed as well, with the intention to gain critical raw materials and, at the same time, to improve the environmental quality of the ancient mining area.

The project lasts two years and will be comprised of four general assemblies and two round tables, where experts (both European and International) will have the possibility to meet and exchange their knowledge.


  • Alma Mater Studiorum – Universita di Bologna, Italy (Lead partner)
  • Agenzia Nazionale per le Nuove Tecnologie, l’Energia e lo Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile (ENEA), Italy
  • Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières, BRGM (The French geological survey), France
  • MYTILINEOS S.A., Greece
  • National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece
  • Orano Mining, France
  • Technische Universiteit Delft (Delft University of Technology), the Netherlands
  • Université de Bordeaux, France
  • Université de Lorraine (UL), France

Learn more about the INCO-Piles project.