Elements of Future
Biomining Elements of Future
Biomining, sometimes referred to as bioleaching, is the process of extracting metal from ore through the metabolism of microorganisms. It also involves obtaining metal compounds from hard drives and old mobile phones. More than five per cent of the gold in the world today is obtained through biomining, and the process also accounts for about twenty per cent of the world copper. Although it is also utilised in mining other minerals such as Zinc, cobalt, and Nickel, the most important one among them is REEs (rare earth elements) because of their significant value.
Features and Benefits of Biomining
It Involves A Natural Process and, It Is, Therefore, Cheap
Biotechnologies make use of the organic process for environmental protection and maximum desired results. It involves utilising microbes to extract metals. Hence, it is cost-effective.
It Is Eco-Friendly
It is because it does not involve the emission of harmful substances and all procedures are purely natural.
It Is Suitable for and Compatible with Most Natural Resources
Biomining accounts for a larger percentage of sulfuric minerals produced in the world today, particularly PGMs and REEs. The process is not complicated and, therefore, compatible with most elements.
How It Works
Usually, metals are found in minerals (gold in sulfuric minerals). Biomining uses microbes to oxidise the metals, which means to strip the metals’ mineral component and allow them to dissolve in liquid. Biomining is more suitable for metals that can quickly recover.
For solid rocks, it may help strip a layer of the mineral surrounding them and prepares it for traditional mining techniques. The direct dissolution of minerals surrounding metals is known as bioleaching, while the latter is known as bio-oxidation.
There are three main procedures for biomining, which are:
This process involves making materials that have just been freshly mined into heaps for bioleaching.
Dump leaching is the methods of putting low-grade ore or waste rock in an enclosed hole and then leach it to strip the metals of the waste surrounding it.
As the name implies, it involves putting split rocks in a large tank or vessel and then shaking it to distribute the microbes and materials evenly and even hasten the bioleaching process.
Leaching may take up to months; hence biomining is slower than the standard method of mining metals. Also, the process requires a source of energy which often depends on the type of microorganism in use; for instance, copper derives power from inorganic sources, while REEs uses the power derived from organic carbon.
The importance of REEs (rare earth elements) cannot be over-emphasised. REEs, a set of fifteen lanthanides located at the end of the periodical table (including scandium and yttrium), are a common component in electrical devices and currently, most sought after element because of their magnetic features. However, REEs are mined as secondary products because unlike other metals; it is dispersed. It is widely demanded wind turbines, electric cars, hard drives and other equipment and will still exist for a long time. They are essentials for future discoveries and technology inventions; hence they must be maintained and used in a sustainable way that is eco-friendly and low budgeted.