2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is usually used as a refractory model compound that requires a prolonged reaction time for mineralization. In this study, we found that nickel oxide (NiO) significantly improved 2,4-D degradation and mineralization in reaction with ozone. Other metal oxides, such as titania, silica and alumina, were also tested in this reaction, so that, the mineralization degree was almost the same for all of them (ca. 25%), whereas NiO showed more than 60% in 1h. These outstanding results led us to study in more depth the role of NiO as catalyst in the degradation of 2,4-D. For instance, the optimum NiO loading amount was 0.3gL-1. The catalytic ozonation showed a high stability after three reaction cycles. With the aim of identifying the surface species responsible for the high activity of NiO, besides knowing the byproducts during the degradation of 2,4-D, XPS and HPLC were mainly used as analytical tools. According to the results, the mineralization of 2,4-D was directly influenced by the adsorbed chlorate organic compounds and oxalate group onto NiO. Therefore, NiO plays a true role as a catalyst forming surface compounds which are subsequently decomposed causing an increase in the mineralization efficiency. In addition, it was possible to identify several degradation byproducts (2,4-diclorophenol, glycolic, fumaric, maleic and oxalic acids) that were included in a rational reaction pathway. It was proposed that 2,4-D elimination in presence of NiO as catalyst is a combination of processes such as: conventional ozonation, indirect mechanism (OH) and surface complex formation. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.