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Progress in bioleaching: part B: applications of microbial processes by the minerals industries

Abstract

This review presents developments and applications in bioleaching and mineral biooxidation since publication of a previous mini review in 2003 (Olson et al. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 63:249–257, 2003). There have been discoveries of newly identified acidophilic microorganisms that have unique characteristics for effective bioleaching of sulfidic ores and concentrates. Progress has been made in understanding and developing bioleaching of copper from primary copper sulfide minerals, chalcopyrite, covellite, and enargite. These developments point to low oxidation–reduction potential in concert with thermophilic bacteria and archaea as a potential key to the leaching of these minerals. On the commercial front, heap bioleaching of nickel has been commissioned, and the mineral biooxidation pretreatment of sulfidic-refractory gold concentrates is increasingly used on a global scale to enhance precious metal recovery. New and larger stirred-tank reactors have been constructed since the 2003 review article. One biooxidation–heap process for pretreatment of sulfidic-refractory gold ores was also commercialized. A novel reductive approach to bioleaching nickel laterite minerals has been proposed.

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Correspondence to James A. Brierley.

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Brierley, C.L., Brierley, J.A. Progress in bioleaching: part B: applications of microbial processes by the minerals industries. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 97, 7543–7552 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-013-5095-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-013-5095-3

Keywords

  • Bioleaching
  • Biooxidation
  • Sulfide minerals
  • Applications
  • Reactors
  • Microorganisms