The bioeconomy company Brain and CyPlus have announced the development of an initial range of products for the global mining industry. This work has been carried out as part of a multi-year collaboration between the companies in the area of biological ore processing to extract gold and silver. On the basis of successful laboratory research up to the 100 litre scale, the partners then succeeded in scaling up the process to the metric ton level last October, thus reaching an important milestone in the last stage towards market maturity. The bio-based process could produce the desired precious metals from ores in industrially relevant yields, even for throughputs on the metric ton scale. The method is now being further improved for industrial application and this process is sufficiently advanced for the partners to expect the market launch of the first range of products as early as 2019.
The extraction of precious metals from ores is based on the use of naturally occurring and enhanced microorganisms from the Brain Bioarchives. During the ongoing collaboration, the partners very soon reached the goal of identifying a variety of microorganisms that, having highly specific adhesion effects, give the gold and silver-bearing minerals a new physical property. This effect can be exploited to separate gold or silver specifically from gangue and enrich it in an integrated process step.
“Our research aims at developing bio-based methods that could offer innovative and sustainable processes for green mining in global markets for ore processing,” said Stefan Welbers, Senior Vice President and General Manager of CyPlus. “For this reason we’ve continuously kept the technical requirements and structural conditions in mines in mind. In the foreseeable future, for example, we’ll be able to offer mine operators the possibility of integrating advanced biotechnological methods into their current processes without significant investment costs or delays in operation. In this way, we’re expanding our technology portfolio to include biological components for efficient and eco-friendly processing of precious metals.”
Dr Guido Meurer, member of the Management Board and Unit Head Producer Strain Development at Brain, says: “We’re delighted – and proud – that the interdisciplinary team has succeeded in establishing a groundbreaking biological process for a new processing technology and developing it to high product maturity in just a few years. With our processes for Green Mining it will be possible in the future to exploit ore deposits containing precious metals even in regions where the conventional processes are out of the question. Green Mining is an increasingly important issue and an attractive field of business also in view of the increasing scarcity of raw materials.”
The partners have already filed a patent for the bio-based method, which describes the special microorganisms possessing selectively adhesive properties that can be used to enrich precious metals from ores.