Thursday, 2 August 2012

Using bacteria to extract metals from oxidized ores

“Biomining”, as traditionally practised, uses aerobic, acidophilic microorganisms to accelerate the oxidative dissolution of sulfide minerals present in ores and concentrates, thereby either causing target metals to be solubilised (e.g. copper) or made accessible to chemical extraction (e.g. gold).

Many acidophiles are also able to catalyze the dissimilatory reduction of ferric iron in anoxic or oxygen-depleted environments, and can accelerate the reductive dissolution of ferric iron minerals, such as goethite, under such conditions. Recent work has demonstrated how this approach can be used to extract metals from oxidized ores, such as laterites and manganese nodules, at low (ca. 30˚C) temperatures. Reductive mineral dissolution has been trialled successfully with a variety of ores, pointing to a generic application of this approach, and this will be the theme of a keynote lecture at Biohydromet ’14 in Falmouth, to be presented by Barrie Johnson, Professor of Environmental Biotechnology at Bangor University, UK. 


Barrie is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, Industrial Research Fellow of the Royal Society and head of the Bangor Acidophile Research team. Following the success of the recent Biohydromet '12, we expect this to be just one of many state-of-the art presentations in Falmouth in 2014.

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