Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Biomining '21 Day 3

Biohydrometallurgy is most often used to deal with recalcitrant minerals, where other techniques fail. These minerals often end up in plant tailings, and in the quest for a circular economy, which will be one of the main themes of Sustainable Minerals ’21 in a couple of weeks’ time, the treatment of secondary deposits, such as old tailings dams, and current plant tailings, increases in importance.

The day began with eight presentations, from Austria, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain on bioleaching to extract valuable and hazardous metals and base metals from waste streams, and from steel production by-products.

Recycling of metals is probably the greatest challenge for the circular economy, particularly the small amounts present in waste electrical and electronic equipment, such as mobile phones and printed circuit boards. 

There are intensive research efforts around the globe and in the second session of the day, on Recycling, seven presentations from France, Germany, Spain, South Africa, Republic of Korea and UK showed how biotechnology might play an important role in this area. 

Daniel Ray, of Coventry University, UK, highlighted that mobile phones have become an integral part of modern society. An average mobile phone is estimated to be in use for less than two years with an estimated 18 million handsets replaced every year in the UK alone. Waste mobile phones contain a variety of valuable metals including copper, nickel and gold, and tiny amounts of critical metals such as rare earths and indium. 

There is no doubt that biohydrometallurgy will play a crucial role in the circular economy, and we will hear more of secondary processing and recycling at Sustainable Minerals ’21.

The circular economy will also be the subject of debate at the G7 summit, which begins on Friday in Cornwall, and as a prelude to this a huge sculpture made of electronic waste is being built on the Hayle Towans dunes facing Carbis Bay where the G7 leaders will be meeting.  It has been named "Mount Recyclemore" and bids to highlight the damage caused by the disposal of electronic devices.

Photo: Greg Martin @photogregmartin

The huge faces depict UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden.

The project aims to highlight the growing threat of e-waste on the planet as the G7 leaders prepare to discuss how to tackle climate change and build a greener future.


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