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Biomining of metals: how to access and exploit natural resource sustainably

In industrial bioleaching biomining three technical processes are differentiated: Heap or dump bioleaching, tank bioleaching, in situ or in place bioleaching. Today the recovery of copper from sulfide ores is the most important industrial application, and a significant proportion of the world copper production originates from heap or dump bioleaching. Furthermore biomining is applied for the recovery of gold, cobalt, nickel, zinc and uranium.

Bioreactor for metal bioleaching in the geomicrobiology laboratory of BGR Source: Via targeted research and further development of bioleaching valuable substances such as economically critical metals could be recovered from mine waste dumps mine tailings , complex ores, non-sulfidic ores such as laterites and manganese nodules, as well as industrial residues such as ashes, sludges, slags and even electronic waste.

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For this, processes already exist in laboratory scale and further work is carried out in the geomicrobiology laboratory of BGR, mainly within the frame of third-party funded projects. BGR For biomining specialized microorganisms are used in order to recover valuable metals from ores via bioleaching.


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BGR Via targeted research and further development of bioleaching valuable substances such as economically critical metals could be recovered from mine waste dumps mine tailings , complex ores, non-sulfidic ores such as laterites and manganese nodules, as well as industrial residues such as ashes, sludges, slags and even electronic waste. Current third-party funded projects: Composition EcoMetals - Innovative eco-efficient biohydrometallurgy process for the recovery of strategic and rare metals: Jeannette Marrero Coto, Literatur: Aerobic versus anaerobic reductive dissolution of iron-rich nickel laterite overburden by Acidithiobacillus.

Kumbakonam Dumpyard Biomining by Zigma- Part 3

A different biomining technique, for metals which are not dissolved by the microbes, uses microbes to break down the surrounding minerals, making it easier to recover the metal of interest directly from the remaining rock. Most current biomining operations target valuable metals like copper, uranium, nickel, and gold that are commonly found in sulfidic sulfur-bearing minerals.

Microbes are especially good at oxidizing sulfidic minerals, converting metals like iron and copper into forms that can dissolve more easily. Other metals, like gold, are not directly dissolved by this microbial process, but are made more accessible to traditional mining techniques because the minerals surrounding these metals are dissolved and removed by microbial processes.

BGR - Metal Bioleaching (Biomining)

Leaching times vary from days to months, making this process slower than conventional mineral extraction techniques. Most current biomining operations use naturally occurring microbial communities. Because these types of organisms are already common in the environment, the risks from the release of the microbes themselves into the local environment are considered to be relatively small. The greatest environmental risks are related to leakage and treatment of the acidic, metal-rich solution created by the microbes, which is similar to the acid mine drainage from some abandoned mines.

This risk can be managed by ensuring that biomining is conducted under controlled conditions with proper sealing and waste management protocols. Biomining is currently a small part of the overall mining industry.

Metal Bioleaching (Biomining)

It is used most frequently when the percentage of the desired metal in a rock is small, or to extract remaining metals from waste rock after conventional mining. Skip to main content. Biomining is mineral processing with microbes. What metals are currently biomined?


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What processes are used to biomine? The most common processes used in biomining are: What are the environmental risks of biomining?