Mining the Future


A Future Circular Collider to support the future circular economy

Experts from around the globe are working together in the Future Circular Collider Feasibility Study (FCCIS), which is committed to investigating the technical and financial viability of a potential future facility at CERN. The Study is supported by the EU-funded FCCIS project, and follows the recommendations of the 2020 update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics. A new generation of particle colliders would ensure a new and exciting era of exploration throughout the 21st Century.

The FCC study wants to couple scientific discovery with environmental sustainability. Building this collider and the infrastructure related to it would create about 9 million cubic metres of excavated materials, mainly molasse. The study does not want to treat this material as waste, but as a resource.

That is why the FCC collaboration, CERN and the University of Leoben, with the support of the EU-funded H2020 FCCIS project, launched the Mining the Future competition. This competition aimed to find sustainable reuse solutions for the excavated materials. The project should also serve as an example for future applications of molasse beyond this competition-specific project.

The final event of the international competition “Mining the Future” will take place on 27 September at CERN’s Globe for Science and Innovation! The four shortlisted proposals will be presented to the public and the winner(s) of the competition will be announced during the ceremony. The winner(s) will receive support of up to EUR 40 000 for further R&D efforts and business planning.

A Circular Collider at the heart of Europe

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) is thinking long-term. Together with its international partners, CERN has started planning for an upgrade of its particle accelerator complex. One of the projects researching the next generation of particle accelerators is the Future Circular Collider project (FCC).

The FCC project envisages the construction of a new, 100 km long, quasi-circular particle collider. This collider and the associated research infrastructure would be located in the Geneva basin, straddling the France-Swiss border. It would be placed in a complex of tunnels, alcoves and caverns, between 200 and 300 meters underground.

This publicly funded research infrastructure project would be a European flagship project. It would increase cohesion between the participating countries and could serve a worldwide community of scientists until the end of the 21st century. It also aims at being an innovation factory in many domains.

Find out more on CERN’s FCC website

The fast track to a circular economy

When densely compressed, fine-grained materials can be used to stabilise road- and railworks. This requires a lot of raw materials though, increasing the carbon footprint of mobility projects. Fortunately, molasse powder could be a more ecological alternative for reuse.

The fast track towards circular economy

Slow-burn architecture

In western Switzerland, molasse has long been used to decorate houses. With 9 million cubic metres of excavated material, architectural applications could be extended to more and larger buildings. All the more so, because molasse is fire-resistant and sound-insulating.

Slow-burn architecture

Concrete sustainability

As the right types of sand for concrete become increasingly scarce, construction companies are urgently looking for alternatives. The molasse that would be excavated could be reused aas a building m aterial for the next generations, even for the construction of the Future Circular Collider tunnel complex!

Concrete sustainability

Molasse can have many other application.

Please note that the application process is now closed. The four shortlisted proposals will be presented to the public and the winner(s) will be announced at our special ceremony at CERN’s Globe for Science and Innovation on September 27.

We are pleased to invite you to The Award Ceremony of the Challenge-based international competition on 27 September at CERN's Globe for Science and Innovation in Meyrin, Switzerland.

Launched in June 2021 by CERN and the University of Leoben with the support of the EU-funded H2020 FCCIS project, the competition sought solutions for the sustainable use of molasse excavated material.

We received 12 solid proposals, which were reviewed by our panel of internationally recognised experts based on technological readiness, innovative potential and socio-economic impact. The four shortlisted proposals will be presented to the public and the winner(s) of the competition will be announced at a special ceremony at CERN. The winner(s) will receive support of up to EUR 40 000 for further R&D efforts and business planning.

Stay tuned

Register online

Who could apply?

The Mining the Future competition was open to all persons and organisations eligible to participate in Horizon 2020:

  • Individual persons
  • Non-profit, academic and higher education organisations
  • International European Interest Organisations (IEIOs)
  • For-profit organisations, including companies and consortia that have their corporate headquarters in EU or Horizon 2020 Associated Countries

Applicants were asked to present a promising and credible solution for the reuse of excavated molasse materials. The proof-of-concept for the technology should already have been demonstrated in laboratory conditions (TRL3). The technology should credibly be on track to be turned into a product, service or industrial process by 2030 (TRL 9).

We are pleased to present to you the 4 shortlisted proposals (in alphabetical order)

  • CER3N: Recycle, Reinvent, Revalorize - Molassic excavated materials by harnessing digital & sorting tech.(Leading institute: AMBERG)
    Focusing on the challenge of heterogeneity of molasse, Amberg and its partners propose to sort, identify and break down the excavated debris into materials of known composition for future use in projects.
  • Molasse is the new ore (Leading institute: BG Ingineurs)
    To overcome the challenge of the undefined petrographic composition of molasse, the consortium led by BG Ingineurs proposes to use online flow analysis, already used in cement plants, to immediately identify the excavated materials for further processing.
  • From Molasse to brick (Leading institute: Briques Technic Concept)
    The BTC and Arcadis consortium proposes to recover and reuse 300,000 cubic metres of molasse for further processing into raw earth bricks that can eventually be used to construct one million square metres of load-bearing walls.
  • From Wastes to soil: Mineral Waste Reclamation Into To Fertile soil materials (Leading institute: Edaphos)
    The consortium led by Edaphos, consisting of soil engineers and mechanical engineers, proposes to process the traditionally landfilled molasse into topsoil-like material using a process called "soil formulation".

A full overview of the projects can be downloaded HERE

How are the winners selected?

An international jury panel of 10 experts from industry and academia is evaluating the proposals to select the most promising ones. The jury includes leading representatives from the fields of geology, subsurface engineering, materials science, innovation management and environmental management.

The jury will announce the selected proposal(s) in August 2022. The winner(s) of the competition will be announced at a special ceremony at CERN on September 27, 2022.

The winner(s) of the competition will receive support worth up to €40 000 for further R&D efforts and business planning.

The jury

Guillaume Attard
Jacques Burdin
Laetitia D’Aloia Schwartzentruber
Herbert H. Einstein
Robert Galler
Klaus Marhold
Manuela Rocca
Severin Seifert
Cédric Thalmann
Alexander Wyss

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