Initial production of lithium carbonate from geothermal brines extracted as part of the EuGeLi project. Eramet Ideas R&D and Innovation Centre, December 2021. © Eramet
When antimony in quartz provides information about mineralisation
BRGM has demonstrated the significant potential of antimony (Sb) and trace element concentrations in quartz as a tracer of mineralisation. Antimony (Sb) concentration levels (obtained by laser ablation coupled with mass spectrometry) are particularly high in the quartz found in five stibine-rich (antimony sulphide) deposits in the Massif Central. Different mineralising episodes were also clearly identified within a single deposit thanks to the trace elements present in the quartz.
EuGeLi: a world first that could open up the possibility of establishing a European lithium industry
EuGeLi is a European project led by Eramet and its partners, including BRGM. The project aims to use local resources to produce "European-made" lithium, which is notably used to manufacture batteries. The initial results have been promising and the first kilograms of battery-grade lithium carbonate from European geothermal water were produced at the Soultz-sous-Forêts site, in the Bas-Rhin département. The issue now is to assess whether it would be possible to build a competitive blueprint to produce lithium batteries on an industrial scale in Europe, with a reduced carbon footprint, as a complement to the development of renewable energy sources.
It is now possible to know where gold comes from
As part of its work concerning the traceability of gold, BRGM has developed an innovative approach, mainly involving primary, eluvial and alluvial gold grains from French Guiana. BRGM has succeeded in identifying amalgamated gold (which is illegal in France) by analysing the mercury, using portable measuring devices to distinguish each legal mining operation tested based on a specific geochemical signature, supplemented by the characterisation of the mineral micro-inclusions, if necessary.
Which stones should be used to restore Notre-Dame de Paris?
The restoration of the cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, which was heavily damaged by a fire in April 2019. The restoration requires using "new" stones that are compatible with the original ones. Moreover, the new stones need to be available in far greater quantities than those normally required for maintenance work carried out on historic monuments. To meet this need, the public body in charge of the cathedral's conservation and restoration teamed up with BRGM to conduct an R&D programme aimed at identifying, characterising and selecting stones from quarries whose stones have compatible aesthetic and physical qualities. The research enabled us to produce a stone-selection guide for the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris.
Iterams: new tools to optimise mining activities
The H2020 Iterams project – aimed at improving the recycling of water and reclamation of tailings in mining operations – came to an end in 2021. During the project, BRGM developed a tool for assessing the geopolymerisation potential of mine tailings. It also developed innovative electrochemical probes to measure the non-conservative parameters of water online. Finally, it designed a method for assessing the environmental impacts of tailings ponds, with site-specific results that are more accurate than those obtained using the conventional generic approach.
A team from BRGM installs a probe to measure the non-conservative parameters of water at the Kevitsa site (Finland). © BRGM
Valomag: rare earth elements extracted from magnets in urban mines
Launched in 2019, the Valomag project aims to recover magnets from urban mines (electrical and electronic waste stockpiles) in order to produce new magnets or extract rare earth elements. BRGM has developed an innovative, mechanical, pilot-scale process that can be applied to used hard disks. The magnet recovery rate is close to 90% and has a purity level of 88%, making various reclamation solutions possible, including the hydrometallurgical extraction of rare earth elements. Developed by BRGM, this innovative and environmentally-friendly process produces didymium and dysprosium oxides, which have numerous industrial applications. A patent is currently being registered.