Metal recovery by bioleaching of sulfidic mining wastes — Application to a European case study
The non-energy extractive industry (NEEI) of the EU-25 generated a direct turnover of about €40 billion, and provided employment to about 250000 people in 16629 companies in 2004. The use of primary raw materials in the production of other branches of EU industry means they have a central role in guaranteeing industrial and economic sustainability. Nevertheless current demand exceeds production, and so the EU is heavily dependent on minerals and metals imports. In this context of securing access to metals, turning mining wastes into new resources of currently unexploited valuable metals is an important challenge. The mining wastes can contain base and precious metals, but also metalloids and rare earth elements that are nowadays considered as highly critical for the industrial development of the European Union. Nevertheless, the development of alternative routes to conventional processing is still required in order to decrease the cost associated to the treatment of these unconventional resources which are more complex in composition and with lower grades.
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