Modern Miners Using Bacteria, Plants to Get the Good From Ore

October 5th, 2012 | by Michael Keller

 
Brazilian mining company Vale announced this month it is the latest to turn to living organisms to help get at valuable metals that would otherwise be lost.

Company officials said engineers have been working with University of Sao Paolo researchers to identify bacteria and fungi that can consume copper tailings. This refuse from the mining process often contains valuable metals, which are left behind because they are not worth recovering with traditional extraction methods.

Their project is still in its pilot phase, and researchers are sorting through 35 microorganisms they’ve found naturally living around tailing piles near the Sossego Mine in northern Brazil. If they can isolate species especially good at dissolving the poor quality ore, then they still must figure out an economically viable way to recover the metals that the creatures consumed.

If it works out, Vale estimates that using microscopic creatures could increase the company’s income by as much as $1.4 billion.

Read more:Modern Miners Using Bacteria, Plants to Get the Good From Ore — Txchnologist

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