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Current Developments in Biotechnology and Bioengineering
2020, Pages 437-458

Biological treatment for the recovery of minerals from low-grade ores

Ravichandran Rathna, Ekambaram Nakkeeran

Research Laboratory, Department of Biotechnology, Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering (Autonomous), Sriperumbudur, India.


Contemporary technical developments in biotechnology aspire ingenious alternative applications in hydrometallurgy. Bioleaching is an important processing approach to recover base, precious, and strategic metals using microbes. The conventional processing methods cause mining pollution in the environment, thereby causing severe public health concerns ultimately leading to stringent environmental regulations. Currently, industries are mainly focused on metal recovery from low-grade ores, mining wastes, and tailings. Owing to these concerns, biohydrometallurgy has gained attention as a revolutionary biotechnological approach that exploits microbes to recover metals especially from contaminated sites and low-grade ores. Further, interdisciplinary nature has gained popularity in the developing countries as a promising technology that makes the mining sector more eco-friendly and sustainable. Recent studies showed that microbial treatment of refractory ore increased the extraction of metal than conventional chemical extraction. Therefore, microorganisms have potential industrial application in heavy metal recovery and removal. Biotechnology mainly focused on developing techniques that are economically sustainable and clean technology. This chapter lays emphasis on fundamental and metal resistance mechanisms behind microbe-based biotechnological approaches for leaching metals, metal recovery from refractory ores, and heavy metals treatment. In addition, an overview of mining pollution, regulations, microbes as biosorbents, and the challenges and future opportunities are also discussed. An increasing knowledge and understanding of applied research in the field of genetic engineering would enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of biotechnological processes in metal removal and recovery.

Keywords: Biomining; Biohydrometallurgy; Bioleaching; Biosorbents; Microbes; Mining pollution.

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