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ArticleName Prospects for application of biotechnology in mining industry
DOI 10.17580/gzh.2017.07.14
ArticleAuthor Abramova N. А., Blagovidov А. S.

Skochinsky Institute of Mining, Lyubertsy, Russia:

N. А. Abramova, Leading Researcher, Candidate of Biological Sciences,
А. S. Blagovidov, Director


A comparative analysis of future prospects of currently established and commercially applied biomining technologies used in heap- and dump-bioleaching and stirred-tank biooxidation of low grades primary and secondary ores, tailing deposits and base-metal dumps was carried out to show feasibility and economic viability of biotechnologies that could either be used as a primary stand-alone technology or integrated with traditional methods of metal recovery. The main advantages of bio-oxidation of refractory gold ores as compared with roasting and pressure oxidation lie in its relative simplicity, mild operation conditions, low capital costs, low energy input, and in its friendliness towards the environment. Recent research advances greatly expanded the list of the microorganisms available for biomining and established a solid scientific basis for monitoring, optimization and further advancement of biohydrometallurgical processes. In addition to bio-leaching and bio-oxidation, microorganisms could be used in several other biomining processes such as biobenefication to remove undesirable components from the ore; biosurface modification in froth flotation and selective flocculation of minerals to enhance their physical separation and bioremediation of toxic chemicals discharged from traditional engineering operations. There are considerable opportunities for further research and development in these areas. This paper is an attempt to provide a critical summary on the most important efforts in the area of emerging biotechnologies and challenges to their implementation in mining industry. Versatility and diversity of available biotechnologies provide a possibility for an economically viable unique solution for the treatment of ores with complex mineralogy and those not suitable for processing by traditional methods. Increasing public concern for ecological safety along with depletion of prime grade ores may force efficient, adaptable, “green” biomining technologies to become prevalent in the future. Research, development and commercialization of climate-specific nationally-accepted biotechnologies requires long-term economic commitment from the Government.

keywords Microbiology, bacterial cultures, biotechnology, bioleaching, heap leaching, stirred-tank biooxidation, bioremediation, gold recovery

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