Copper is one of the few materials that does not degrade or lose its chemical or physical properties during the recycling process. Recycling has the potential to increase resource efficiency and reduce waste.
In 2017, the International Copper Study Group calculated that recycled copper accounted for 33% of global copper consumption.
Copper recycling is a thriving sector in Canada. The smelter and refinery at Rouyn-Noranda and Montreal, respectively, in Quebec, recover significant quantities of the metal.
What is Biomining?
Biomining is extracting metals of commercial importance from rock ores or mine waste using microorganisms (microbes). Biomining techniques might potentially be utilized to clean up metal-polluted locations.
Solid minerals are frequently encased in valuable metals. Some microorganisms may oxidize these metals, allowing them to dissolve in water. This is the core technique underpinning most biomining, and it’s employed for metals that are easier to recover when dissolved than when extracted from solid rocks.
For metals not dissolved by microorganisms, a separate biomining process employs bacteria to break down the surrounding minerals, making it simpler to collect the metal of interest straight from the residual rock.
How Biomining Helps In Copper Mining?
According to an expert, the secret to success is to use microorganisms that are naturally present at mining sites.
“These bacteria require very little to carry out their functions; they rely on air, mostly oxygen and CO2, as well as the mineral itself as a source of energy,” the researchers say.
Microorganisms would ultimately free copper from rocks if a mine site was left alone, but it may take hundreds of years.
In a biomining lab, scientists utilize bioleaching to speed up the process. This process is also now being used by mining companies like Collective Mining stock.
Researchers submerge ore in acid, then add bacteria that alter the solution, dismantling the rock and releasing copper in liquid form.
It is then converted into solid metal through a unique electrochemical procedure. That, in turn, may be employed in the industrial applications on which we rely so heavily.
Biomining has been dubbed as “future mining” by some people. Indeed, it is far less expensive and environmentally friendly than traditional mining, with far less CO2 emissions and smaller carbon and water footprints than traditional technologies.
Furthermore, conventional mining’s poisonous chemicals may be exceedingly detrimental to the environment; accidents have occurred in the past. The microorganisms used in biomining are naturally found at mining locations and are not harmful.
Countries Using This Technique
South Africa, Brazil, and Australia are among the nations that have already adopted biomining. Bioleaching is responsible for around 20% of the world’s copper output.
Copper isn’t the only metal used in this manner. Gold and uranium are also extracted using microorganisms. There are also additional biomining uses in the works, such as employing microorganisms to clean up corrosive acid pollution from mining waste.
If this technology succeeds, it may one-day mine copper without digging massive pit mines. For this purpose, we highly recommend reading about Collective Mining stock. Instead, miners would drill two holes to inject a microbe-rich solution, which they would then collect once it contained copper.
This alternative to traditional mining may even save lives; it is estimated that 12,000 people die each year in mining accidents worldwide. So if this technique gets more frequently used, it will benefit in more than one way.