Fostering the experts of tomorrow: PROMETIA’s Tech Tour 2023 offers young scientists insights into the responsible sourcing of raw materials in northern FrancE

Fostering the experts of tomorrow: PROMETIA’s Tech Tour 2023 offers young scientists insights into the responsible sourcing of raw materials in northern FrancE

In June 2023, PROMETIA organised its annual Tech Tour in the North of France, representing an important highlight in the association’s calendar. The event provided an exceptional platform for young researchers, PhD students, postdocs, and engineers to immerse themselves in the world of extractive metallurgy and materials recycling, giving them unique access to high-profile industries and research centres.

“Visiting metal production industries is often restricted for researchers, making it difficult to visualize the entire site.
The Prometia Tech Tour is therefore a very suitable and educative opportunity.”
Nand Peeters – Post-Doctoral Researcher, Chemistry Department @KU Leuven

“As a young researcher, the Prometia Tech Tour was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge, network, and participate in different interesting projects in the future.”
Gladys A Ochoa Freire – Researcher @The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)

PROMETIA Tech Tour 2023 – a profound career experience
For many attendees, PROMETIA’s Tech Tour was not just a field visit to the industry, but a profound experience for their careers. Attendees were able to see the industrial scale of real-world metal production and gain a deep understanding of the challenges the industry faces as it moves forward with this century’s energy and environmental transformation.

“The 2023 Prometia Tech Tour was an amazing learning experience and the most successful international networking event I have participated in. This is primarily because we had ample time to ask questions to various professionals, engage in meaningful discussions,
and exchange ideas about our respective work and research areas.”
Thomas BERKI – Engineer @CEA

Accompanied by esteemed members of the PROMETIA Executive Committee, including Yongxiang Yang of TU Delft, Patrick D’Hugues of BRGM, and PROMETIA President Stéphane Bourg of BRGM, the Tech Tour facilitated stimulating discussions about the future of metallurgy and potential career opportunities. The comprehensive programme encompassed a thorough examination of metal supply, processing, and utilisation, shedding light on the latest trends in raw material recovery and the circular economy.

“The Tech Tour gave a very good overview of the metallurgy industry in France, despite lasting only a few days.”
Capucine CLERET DE LANGAVANT – Pyrometallurgy Engineer @Eramet

The Tech Tour Group 2023 at Recytech.

Exploration of metal production and recycling site
On the first day, participants arrived in Lille and met for a warm welcome dinner. Day 2 began with a visit to Nyrstar in Auby, a major zinc metal refinery showcasing various metallurgical processes. Later, the group explored the neighbouring facility Recytech in Fouquières-lès-Lens, a recycling specialist that uses pyrometallurgy to treat zinc-bearing waste, providing an example of a successful circular economy. The visit to Recytech’s impressive rotary kiln, that rotates at 1000 – 800 °C, left a lasting impression on all participants. The day ended with an insightful presentation by Team2 that focused on the various industrial applications in environmental technologies, eco-materials, recycling and conservation that the company offers for different types of production facilities and companies

“From Nyrstar electrolysis to Recytech rotary kiln through pilot facilities at Eramet Ideas and at BRGM, we all learned a lot about metal supply, processing and applications.”
Benoit VILLEMEJEANNE – R&D Engineer @Eramet Ideas

Discovering a top-notch innovation centre
On day 3, participants visited Eramet Ideas in Trappes, an innovative centre focused on extractive metallurgy. The morning included presentations on Eramet’s progress in critical metals for the energy transition, such as lithium, nickel and cobalt – key components of batteries for electromobility. In the afternoon participants had the chance to explore the facility plants and witness experiments progressing from lab to mini-pilot scale.

”From the perspective of a hydrometallurgist with a passion for solvent extraction, observing another pilot-scale solvent extraction installation was truly valuable and encouraging for potential future collaboration with Eramet Ideas.”
Michal Ochmanski – Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals – Gilwice

Eramet Ideas
Discovering the facilities of Eramet Ideas.

Unravelling Geosciences
On day 4, the group visited BRGM in Orléans, renowned as France’s leading public institution for Earth Science applications. The participants attended presentations on BRGM’s criticality assessment, the application of life cycle assessment (LCA) to the extractive sector, challenges in mineral processing (with a focus on electro-fragmentation), and advancements in bioleaching. Additionally, they had a meeting with Caspeo, a company offering process simulation software and services. The afternoon was dedicated to exploring BRGM’s four pilot facilities: SOLSA for mineralogy and chemistry characterisation of drill core samples, PLAT’INN for experimental mineral raw material and waste treatment, PRIME as an innovative soil and water decontamination test laboratory, and MIMAROC, an X-ray imaging platform for in-situ thermohydromechanical and chemical processes.

”The final stop on this excellent tour was BRGM, which boasted a wide range of geological services. However, what fascinated me the most was their bioremediation division, which seamlessly transitions from laboratory-scale to large-scale or semi-technical scale.”
Michal Ochmanski – Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals – Gilwice

At the Plat’Inn and PRIME pilot facilities of BRGM.

Farewell with new possibilities
The Tech Tour concluded with farewells as attendees departed, but the journey did not end there. Participants carried with them a wealth of knowledge, experiences and newfound connections, with potential future collaborative projects in sight.

“Prometia Tech Tour gave me the impression of getting back to the heart of what makes me do science: the pleasure of discovery,
the desire to understand and the joy of sharing.”
Clément LASKAR – Post-doc @Laboratoire de Génie Chimique, Université de Toulouse, CNRS, INP, UPS

PROMETIA’s Tech Tour 2023 has undoubtedly left a lasting impression on everyone involved. These young researchers and engineers continue their journey in the field of extractive metallurgy and materials recycling with renewed passion, strengthened by the invaluable experiences and insights they gained during this transformative tour. As with previous Tech Tours, PROMETIA remains committed to supporting the next generation of researchers and empowering them to help shape the future of extractive metallurgy. And for everyone interested who is still doubting to participate next year we will close with the words of Gabriele Baldassarre, one of our participants:

“This Tech Tour has been a perfect blend of discovery, learning, and leisure activities for all participants.
The social moments we shared throughout the week allowed us to get to know each other, exchange professional experiences, and naturally build lasting connections.
I wholeheartedly recommend future applicants be prepared to make the most of every minute of this experience.
You will gain a wealth of knowledge from the experts and have the chance to meet colleagues who share the same level of passion as you do!”
Gabriele Baldassarre – PhD student @Politecnico di Torino

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