The Biogeochemistry of Biomining
Biomining is a technology that harnesses the abilities of certain microorganisms to accelerate the dissolution of minerals, thereby facilitating the recovery of metals of value. In full-scale commercial operations, biomining currently mainly involves using consortia of acidophilic bacteria and archaea to bring about the oxidative dissolution of sulfide minerals. The major ore reserves of many base metals, such as copper and zinc, are sulfidic, and other valuable metals, such as gold and uranium, may also be associated with minerals such as pyrite (FeS2). Where the destruction of minerals leads to the target metal being solubilised, the process of oxidative dissolution is referred to as bioleaching, whereas if the metal become more accessible to chemical extraction but remains in an insoluble form, the process is known more correctly as biooxidation (Fig. 19.1).
KeywordsFerric Iron Sulfide Mineral Mineral Dissolution Oxidative Dissolution Leach Liquor
The author is grateful to the Royal Society (U.K.) for the provision of an Industrial Fellowship.
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