UCD researchers join €7.5m EU project for sustainable mining

14 Jul 2022

Image: © Jaspercode/Stock.adobe.com

Vector is a three-year EU project that is set to identify new and less-invasive technologies for mineral exploration in Europe.

Researchers at University College Dublin (UCD) are taking part in a €7.5m project called Vector that aims to study the exploration of minerals needed to manufacture green technologies.

The newly awarded three-year project is funded by EU Horizon Europe and UK Research and Innovation. It aims to address the factors that affect the supply chain of raw materials used to develop technologies such as wind turbines and batteries needed for a green energy transition.

UCD researchers from iCRAG, the SFI research centre in applied geosciences based in the university, will focus on identifying new and less-invasive technologies for Irish mineral exploration that don’t exacerbate the climate crisis.

Renewable energy technologies require critical raw materials such as copper, zinc and lithium, which are in short supply because of high demand from countries trying to meet their climate goals.

Vector, which has 18 partners across seven countries, focuses on developing evidence-based knowledge, integrating scientific and social pathways to improve mineral exploration. The aim is to reduce the EU’s dependence on mineral imports from third countries by mining them locally and sustainably.

The project is hosted by the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf in Germany.

“This is a truly important project because it recognises that we cannot solve technical problems without understanding and addressing their societal consequences,” said Geertje Schuitema, a UCD professor and leader of the research on social acceptance.

“Vector will provide a model for integrating social science research with scientific research across the full breadth and duration of the project.”

iCRAG has been awarded €1.3m under Schuitema’s leadership, in collaboration with iCRAG director Murray Hitzman, Dr Fergus McAuliffe of the School of Earth Sciences and Dr Shane Bergin of the School of Education.

Results from Vector research will be freely available via a web-based interface designed to support evidence-based decision making.

“Europe, including Ireland, has real potential for discovery and production of several of the critical elements needed to decarbonise our economies and deliver the green transition,” said Hitzman.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic