A secure access to refractory metals is highly strategic for Europe. Their resistance to extremely high temperatures, corrosion and wear in addition to several other unique characteristics make them extremely beneficial for various manufacturing applications in strategic EU industries, such as aerospace, energy and toolmaking.

Today, with the exception of rhenium produced in Poland (15% of world production), and tungsten, produced in Austria, Spain and Portugal (2.7% of world production), these metals are mainly imported from China, Brazil, Chile but also from the USA and Canada.

Although primary refractory metal resources are limited in Europe, they can be found in secondary resources (industrial waste and urban mines) and are already being recycled from super alloys to some extent. The supplyvalue chain in the coming years could be improved if industry develops a better use of these secondary resources, optimises the use of external resources such as energy and water and at the same time reduces the amount and the toxicity of the waste.

In this context, members of the PROMETIA association, whose expertise cover the whole refractory metals value chain, gathered to address this challenge by setting up the MSP-REFRAM project.


MSP-REFRAM aimed to establish a durable multi-stakeholder network to carry out a comprehensive study of the entire value chain of key refractory metals including mining, processing, recycling and final applications (and potential substitution opportunities), and taking account of crosscutting aspects: policy/society, technology and market.

Activities & tasks

WP1 - Multi Stakeholder Platform

In this WP, all the key players met and addressed the transversal issues of the refractory metals. It assessed the current and future selected metal needs of European industry. It also examined to what extent these could be met from European and non-European sources, and explored innovative strategies for improving reliability and affordability of supply for metals and metal-based intermediate products. It has delivered guidelines and defined indicators. This has been used to analyse the data collected and the innovation proposed in the four technical WPs.

WP2 - Primary resource

Based on the evaluation of primary resources of five refractory metals, the available and innovative mining technologies have been identified; the existing technologies of mineral processing and extractive metallurgy have been reviewed and the innovative technologies has been investigated; the wastes including mineral processing tailings and metallurgical slags were evaluated with specific attentions to the waste amount reduction, environmental impacts, recovery of valuable trace elements and potential utilisations as construction materials.

WP3 - Secondary resource (industrial waste, tailings)

The main objective of WP3 was to address the recovery of refractory metals in metallic or oxidic form existing in waste and reduce the amount of waste put in landfill. To reach this main objective the following have been conducted:

  • The available resources containing refractory metals have been identified and listed
  • Existing and innovative technologies for mineral processing and the extractive metallurgy have been explored
  • Tracks for recovery were proposed

WP4 - Secondary resource (urban mining)

The WP objectives included:

  • identification of the existing recycling technologies and gaps to be addressed;
  • identification of barriers to refractory metals recycling;
  • determination of applications where recycling may present a significant opportunity.

WP5 - The concepts and scenarios of substitution

Refractory metals (RM) -tungsten, tantalum, rhenium, molybdenum and niobium- play a highly strategic role for the most relevant EU industrial sectors. Substitution analysis is a key concept that must be transversally present to the study and design of the full value chain. This WP had to discuss and analyse the map of substitution for RM within their most relevant applications in EU industry according to a threefold criteria of social, economic and strategic importance.

WP6 - Knowledge management

This work package objectives were to:

  • set the framework for internal knowledge management through the implementation of MSP-REFRAM customised KM tools
  • retrieve and storage knowledge to be generated through WP1, WP2, WP3, WP4 and WP5
  • transform such knowledge into reports, factsheets, infographics, etc. to be used by the Document Management System (DMS) and into classified data (databases or *.xml files) to be used by the Decision Support System (DSS)

WP7 - Capacity, dissemination, communication

This objectives of this work package were to:

  • Boost actions to bring together industrial clusters and EU networks.
  • Increase the impact of MSP-REFRAM by aligning its results with the smart specialisation strategies of main EU regions, working in or with resources of, refractory metals.
  • Trace a roadmap of transferability for the MSP-REFRAM approach and strategy to other RMs sharing core similarities with refractory metals.
  • Organise the communication around the project activities and outputs.

WP8 - Management of the Consortium

WP8 ensured the achievement of the project’s objectives, in terms of quality, timely delivery, and contribution to the expected impact of the project. In terms of consortium management, WP8 objectives were to guarantee sound management of contractual and financial issues, setting-up and maintaining project management tools, good communication in the consortium, proper quality assurance in the delivered reports, financial and contractual management, reporting to the EC.



MSP-REFRAM-D1.2-Report on current state of value chains of refractory metals in the EU.pdf
MSP-REFRAM-D1.3-Report on balance between demand and supply of refractory metals EU.pdf
MSP-REFRAM-D1.6 Second workshop.pdf

Final MSP-REFRAM conference

MSP-Refram ended in 2017. The consortium came together for the project’s final conference on 9-10 March 2017 in Brussels to share the main results and conclusions of their work.

The conference aimed at answering the following questions:

  • Why are tungsten, molybdenum, tantalum, niobium and rhenium important to our society?
  • What are the main resources in Europe, both primary and secondary?
  • How are these metals being produced today?
  • Are they substitutable?
  • Could we improve the European independence in their supply and increase production? How?
See MSP-REFRAM workshops videos

MSP-REFRAM workshops

MSP-REFRAM third workshop

The EU Horizon 2020 project MSP-REFRAM organised its third workshop in Brussels on 28 November 2016. Participants discussed the policy and regulation barriers that could limit the development of the future value chains of the refractory metals that were designed within MSP-REFRAM. The main issues focus on the development of sustainable mining in Europe, which is partly due to the very different policies in each country.

MSP-REFRAM second workshop

MSP-REFRAM organised its second workshop in Brussels from 27-29 September 2016. Building on the results and feedback collected during the first workshop, it opened discussions on potential innovation pathways that optimise the balance between resource availability and usage.

The event gathered 50 participants, including 15 experts, who exchanged on potential substitutions and assess innovative product/service design and business models that may bring change in the current value chain.

During two days, partners in the project presented their work on tungsten, rhenium, niobium, tantalum and molybdenum and collected feedback from the members of the External Experts Committee.

MSP-REFRAM first workshop

A significant milestone towards improving the refractory metals supply chain was reached with the organisation of MSP-REFRAM’s first workshop in Barcelona on 30 and 31 May 2016. The event gathered 60 participants, including 20 experts, to exchange information and establish the state of the art of refractory metals, in particular relating to their mining, processing, recycling and final applications.

During two full days, partners in the project presented their work on tungsten, rhenium, niobium, tantalum and molybdenum and collected feedback from the members of the External Experts Committee.

Project partners

The MSP-REFRAM consortium includes industry, SMEs, research and technology centres, academia, a public authority and the PROMETIA association.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation programme under Grant Agreement no. 688993 

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