About Bioleaching


Bioleaching is an innovative and environmentally friendly approach to recovering valuable metals and critical elements from secondary raw materials. There has been growing interest in developing sustainable and efficient methods for critical element recovery, including REEs and other valuable metals from secondary raw materials such as electronic waste, mining residues, and industrial by-products. Traditional methods of extracting metals from primary ores are often energy-intensive, harmful, and increasingly economically unsustainable in the future. However, the growing demand for critical elements, driven by technological development and the shift to renewable energy sources, makes it essential to explore alternative extraction techniques. Bioleaching has emerged as a promising solution with several advantages over conventional methods. The process exploits the natural ability of microorganisms, mainly bacteria, to dissolve and extract metals from ores and other materials. These microorganisms utilize various metabolic processes to oxidize sulfide minerals and convert insoluble metal compounds into soluble forms. The bacterial strains most commonly used in bioleaching belong to the genera Acidithiobacillus and Leptospirillum, while in some cases, fungi such as Aspergillus and Penicillium are also applied. In our Institute, we work mainly with Acidithiobacillus strains.

A fundamental advantage of bioleaching is its ability to target selectively certain metals and critical elements. Unlike conventional methods, which involve extensive processing and refining steps, bioleaching can be tailored to specific metals, minimizing waste and optimizing resource usage. It can also often be performed at ambient temperature and pressure, reducing energy consumption and operating costs.

Secondary raw materials, such as electronic and mining wastes, are exceptional for metal recovery through bioleaching due to their high metal content. These materials often contain critical elements essential for various industries, including electronics, renewable energy transition, and transportation. The secondary raw materials can be converted into valuable resources with bioleaching, reducing the need for primary ore mining and mitigating the environmental impacts during extraction.