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Towards emission-free mining: Innovative bioleaching for copper, indium and zinc

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German researchers from TU Bergakademie Freiberg are pioneering emission-free mining methods for copper, indium and zinc using innovative bioleaching techniques. Unlike conventional mining, their approach involves microorganisms that dissolve metals from insoluble sulfides in a low pH environment. This novel process also includes a specially designed membrane to filter raw materials from process water, minimizing emissions and reducing energy consumption compared to traditional mining and pyrometallurgy methods.

The initiative forms part of the “XTRACT” project under Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship research program with a €95.5 billion budget. Aimed at achieving emission-free mining and resource conservation, the project aligns with EU climate targets.

Collaborating with XTRACT partners, the TU Bergakademie Freiberg team plans to test these methods in various European mines. The broader application timeline remains open pending further development and testing.

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Bioleaching represents a promising avenue for transforming mining practices and recycling efforts. Alongside TU Bergakademie Freiberg’s research, other institutions like the University of Nottingham and the Technical University of Denmark explore similar bioleaching applications, aiming to recover critical raw materials sustainably from sources like electronic waste.

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