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The challenge

A sustainable mining industry

The ore grades in Australia and overseas show long-term declining trends over time. As the quality of ore deposits continues to decrease, it is expected that processes which can economically and sustainably extract metals from low grade ores will grow in importance to the minerals industry.

Biotechnology and related processes have the potential to transform currently uneconomical ore reserves into a viable resource. Moreover, microorganisms can facilitate the recovery of metals from various metal-containing waste materials such as e-waste, slags and tailings, and acid mine drainage.

Our response

Innovative bioprocess technologies

In partnership with industry and universities, we're developing biotechnological processes for mining industry to allow the recovery of metal values from low grade ores and mine wastes, and to mitigate environmental impacts of mining and metallurgical operations.

Our research includes:

  • Bioprospecting of microbial catalysts for various processes
  • Biobeneficiation of ores through bioflotation and leaching of unwanted elements
  • Pre-treatment of refractory gold-ores through bio-oxidation
  • Bioleaching of metals from sulfide and oxide ores through oxidative and reductive processes
  • Bioleaching and electrochemical leaching of metals from waste materials
  • Biotechnical recovery of metal values from leach liquors
  • Biodegradation of organic impurities
  • Biotechnical removal inorganic impurities (e.g. metals, sulfate, acidity) from hydrometallurgical process waters
  • Acid mine drainage treatment
  • Microbially induced problems such as biofouling and bioclogging of water production bores and microbially influenced corrosion of infrastructure.

We bioprospect microbial catalysts from various environments, such as this acidic stream, to develop bioprocesses that can operate in extreme conditions.

The results

Unlocking value and improving sustainability

We're developing and optimising bioprocesses that allow the extraction of metals from low-grade ores, the processing of which is not economically viable by traditional methods, and helping to transform uneconomic ore resources into reserves.

Our research can make mining industry more sustainable by prolonging the functional lifespan of mines and decreasing the environmental footprint of operations.

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