Friday, 17 June 2011

Focus on Biohydrometallurgy

It was evident from last month's ALTA conference in Perth that biohydrometallurgy plays only a small role in hydrometallurgical operations. Of the 71 papers presented at the conference only 5 were bio-related and the majority of the delegates expressed little interest in bioprocessing, particularly in microbiology technology designed to produce new strains of bacteria. In fact, at last year's ALTA conference it was noted that only two of Western Australia's 1032 operations involved bioleaching.

Nevertheless, biohydrometallurgy worldwide is increasing in importance, particularly in the treatment of refractory ores, and it is essential that scientists and practitioners in this field have the opportunity to meet and discuss developments in their specialist discipline.

MEI's series of Bio and Hydrometallurgy conferences have to some extent failed to provide this focus, the conferences being a hybrid of bioprocessing and the traditional pure hydrometallurgical techniques.

I had a meeting in Perth with biohydrometallurgist Dr. Chris Bryan of Curtin University, and formerly of the University of Cape Town, who presented work at BioHydromet '10 in Cape Town.

We formally agreed that he would act as a consultant to our next biohydrometallurgy conference, which will be held in Falmouth next year. He will work in close conjunction with Prof. Sue Harrison, of the University of Cape Town, our present consultant, and Dr. Patrick D'Hughes, a microbiologist with BRGM in France, to advise MEI on the development of Biohydrometallurgy '12, which will focus solely on the development and application of biohydrometallurgy in the minerals industry. Non- biological hydrometallurgical processes, such as those used to treat nickel laterites and gold ores, will be accommodated in other MEI conferences, such as the back-to-back Precious Metals '12 and Nickel Processing '12, which will be held in Cape Town at the end of next year.

Full details of the scope of Biohydromet '12 can be found here.


  1. Prof. Versiane Albis Leão - Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Brazil24 June 2011 at 21:46

    I would suggest to change focus from Byo-hidrom, which gives a sense of bioleaching, to biotechnology in the mining/metallurgical industries. Biotechnologies can be applied in many process besides bioleaching. That would include topics such as sulphate reduction, manganese precipitation, metals bioprecitation, acid mining drainage, Fe(III) bioreduction, etc.

  2. Prof. Leão makes and interesting point. It touches on what I see as the historically vague definition of biohydrometallurgy.

    I don't believe that biohydromet. implicitly implies bioleaching. Indeed I think by definition it includes the technologies Prof. Leão mentions as these are all biotechnologies which harness the interactions (direct or indirect) between microorganisms and minerals, metals and metallic compounds.

    Certainly we do not wish to necessarily exclude research in these areas from Biohydromet '12 and we will fully consider such submissions. This will be made clear in the Call for Abstracts, but in the meantime maybe you'd like to join the debate here (




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