University of Oulu

Martins, N.P.; Srivastava, S.; Simão, F.V.; Niu, H.; Perumal, P.; Snellings, R.; Illikainen, M.; Chambart, H.; Habert, G. Exploring the Potential for Utilization of Medium and Highly Sulfidic Mine Tailings in Construction Materials: A Review. Sustainability 2021, 13, 12150.

Exploring the potential for utilization of medium and highly sulfidic mine tailings in construction materials : a review

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Author: Martins, Natalia Pires1; Srivastava, Sumit2; Simão, Francisco Veiga3,4,5;
Organizations: 1Chair of Sustainable Construction, ETH Zürich, Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland
2Fibre and Particle Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 8000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
3Central Laboratory for Clay Roof Tiles, Wienerberger NV, 8500 Kortrijk, Belgium
4Research Centre for Economics and Corporate Sustainability, KU Leuven, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
5Division of Geology, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
6Sustainable Materials Management, VITO, Boeretang 200, 2400 Mol, Belgium
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-02-07


Medium and highly sulfidic tailings are high-volume wastes that can lead to severe environmental damage if not properly managed. Due to the high content of sulfide minerals, these tailings can undergo weathering if put in contact with oxygen and water, generating acid mine drainage (AMD). The moderate-to-high sulfide content is also an important technical limitation for their implementation in the production of construction materials. This paper reviews the use of sulfidic tailings as raw material in construction products, with a focus on cement, concrete, and ceramics. When used as aggregates in concrete, this can lead to concrete degradation by internal sulfate attack. In building ceramics, their implementation without prior treatment is undesirable due to the formation of black reduction core, efflorescence, SOₓ emissions, and their associated costs. Moreover, their intrinsic low reactivity represents a barrier for their use as supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) and as precursors for alkali-activated materials (AAMs). Nevertheless, the production of calcium sulfoaluminate (CSA) cement can be a suitable path for the valorization of medium and highly sulfidic tailings. Otherwise difficult to upcycle, sulfidic tailings could be used in the clinker raw meal as an alternative raw material. Not only the SO₃ and SiO₂-rich bulk material is incorporated into reactive clinker phases, but also some minor constituents in the tailings may contribute to the production of such low-CO₂ cements at lower temperatures. Nevertheless, this valorization route remains poorly explored and demands further research.

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Series: Sustainability
ISSN: 2071-1050
ISSN-E: 2071-1050
ISSN-L: 2071-1050
Volume: 13
Issue: 21
Article number: 12150
DOI: 10.3390/su132112150
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 216 Materials engineering
Funding: The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under the Grant Agreement no. 812580 (EU H2020 MSCA -ETN SULTAN) and the Academy of Finland (Grant Agreement no. 319676). This publication reflects only the authors’ view, exempting the EU from any liability.
EU Grant Number: (812580) SULTAN - European Training Network for the remediation and reprocessing of sulfidic mining waste sites
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 319676
Detailed Information: 319676 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (