Monday, June 2, 2008

Bioheapleaching?

Sounds like a really complicated term and until yesterday I had no idea of what it meant. It looks like some Finnish and Australian companies have been developing a new technology that might be a key factor for the exploitation of mines, and it might start a revolution on mining. It sounds like microbes again are opening new frontiers in another field.

Pacific Ore Limited is an Australian based company that has developed and patented a bacterial leach process for the extraction of base metals from sulphide ores stacked in pre-prepared heaps. On the other hand, Talvivaara Mining Company Plc. is currently developing and exploiting polymetallic deposits, in Sotkamo, Finland, with the use of its new bioheapleaching. According to MineWeb:
“Talvivaara aims to become an internationally significant base metals producer with its primary focus on nickel and zinc using a technology known as bioheapleaching to extract metal out of low grade ore. Bioheapleaching makes extraction of metals from low grade ore economically viable.” HERE IT COMES THE IMAGETHERE SHOULD BE MORE SPACE Image by http://www.warwick.ac.uk

Both companies are doing breakthrough developments in the biotechnology area, applying the use of bacteria to the mining field.

But how does bioheapleaching works?
Microbes are used in extracting minerals because they have the ability to oxidise ferrous iron to ferric iron, and sulphur to sulphates. The resulting oxidising conditions dissolve the target metals out of the ore into a solution, from which they can be recovered using conventional methods (HighTech Finland).
IMAGE SHOULD GO HERE Image by http://www.pacificore.com.au/?page=29

The technology enables cost effective and environmentally friendly exploitation of the resource using locally occurring bacteria. Pacific Ore claims that this technology has many advantages such as:
· Reducing the environmental impact
· Being simpler to operate
· It is well suited to remote locations
· Producing high value products

The time will let us know if this technology is as useful and advantageous as it is presented, meanwhile let’s wait for new discoveries introducing the use of microbes to technology.
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