Project: Recognition of microbial functional communities and assessment of the mineralizing potential (bioleaching) for high-tech critical metals

Acronym BIOCriticalMetals
Duration 01/06/2016 - 31/12/2019
Project Topic This project is conceived as a need-driven-research, focused on the concept that waste can become a valuable resource, supplying metals that are extracted today by other processes, promoting recycling, minimizing harmful waste and hazard and dissipation. The selection of the target minerals/ metals in the project addresses the need for continuous supply of these in Europe for technology, anticipating a future cost effectiveness potential of the practical application of the expected research results. Innovative methods and processes for extracting even faint traces of these elements are the focus of the project. New characterized microorganisms with potential to be applied in biosolubilization, biomineralization and bioaccumulation will be obtained. The consortium will assess the microbial biodiversity in tailings where potentially critical high-tech metals may exist ( In, Ga, Te and W) but also relevant pollutants (As, Sb), located in different geological and climatic settings. Isolates will be tested in macrocosm conditions at the last part of the project. The ultimate focus will be to apply microorganisms in the extraction process through bioleaching and to recover the minerals from lixiviates by biomineralization and bioaccumulation. A comparative environmental risk assessment will be performed to residues produced by bioleaching with and without nanoparticles.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
The cutting edge innovative approach of combining microorganisms having the potential to be used in the extraction of metals, with methods (bio nano) to adsorb these metals was the aim of BIOCriticalMetals The project, through the contact with stakeholders and industrial partners, made available the methodology developed in the lab to the future exploitation of tailings where potentially critical high tech metals exist and also to primary sources of these metals, boosting the efficiency of existing mines and expanding the feasibility of the exploitation of small ore deposits Project BIOCriticalMetals Recognition of microbial functional communities and assessment of the mineralizing potential (bioleaching) for hightech critical metals Definition and characterization of the sample areas (WP 1 The objective was to sample and characterize mine waste tailings at the chemical and microbiological level and isolate microorganisms from tungsten and massive sulfide deposits from different climate contexts The mines selected in Portugal were Panasqueira mine (W and Sn, active, Beraltin&W and Jales ( EDM), in Romania the mines suggested by National Agency for Mineral Resources ( and General Direction for Mineral Resources and Sustainable Development of Industrial Zones Bălan (county Harghita Săsar Vechi Bozânta Bloaja Vechi Leorda (county Maramureș Fagetul Ierii Baisoara (county Cluj), Fanate (county Bihor), Valea Sesei (county Alba), Valea Mealu (county Hunedoara), Sasca Montana (county Caras Severin) and in Argentina La Carolina mine The sediments from the target tailings were analysed by ICP and the microbiome of Panasqueira and La Carolina determined by Illumina sequencing The bacterial isolates were included in UCCCB and NIRDBS culture collections The deliverables 1 1 1 2 and 1 3 are included in the publications Assessment of the capability of microorganism for bioprocessing critical metals (WP 2 The objective was to assess the bioleaching process using microorganisms to mobilize critical metals ( W indium, In gallium, Ga tellurium, Te molybdenum, Mo) from mine waste tailings for further processing Isolates from Panasqueira and La Carolina mines presenting a high tolerance to target metals were selected for bioleaching tests at a small scale The leaching conditions were optimized by varying the pH, temperature and carbon source The effect of the presence of a biological consortium on bioleaching ability was also evaluated The leachates were analyzed by ICP MS to quantify all the elements released and not only the target metals (by products) Deliverables 2 1 and 2 2 were fulfilled identified 1 bacterial able to leach Ga Rhodanobacter sp strain B 2 A 1 Ga 4 2 strains able to leach Te (Bacillus Paneabicillus 1 strain able to leach W (Bacillus 5 W 24 Siderophores ( were found to be the effector molecules for leaching in that strain (deliverable 2 3 Bioleaching at small scale was demonstrated except for Indium All results were presented in congresses as oral and poster presentations The results are also included in publications Bioaccumulation strategies with bacteria for leachate treatment (WP 3 The objective was to screen metal resistance microorganisms for their ability to accumulate specific metals ( In, Ga, Te and Mo) inside the cells and to characterize their accumulative binding capacities Here was constructed a W hiperaccumulator EcotupW using the tup genetic determinants from Sulfitobacter dubius EcotupW selectively accumulates W in the presence of Mo and Cr The Bacillus mycoides AlJ 98 was showed the accumulate selectively Te in high amounts Tsukamurella strain B 2 A 2 0 5 Te 1 exhibited accumulation of Ga Mycolicibacterium strain Jales 666 showed high accumulation of In The genome of the selected organisms was sequenced and is available Deliverable 3 1 was achieved with the construction of a highly efficient W accumulator EcotupW 3 2 bioaccumulators were achieved for W, Te Mo Deliverable 3 3 was achieved for W and Te genetic determinants All results were presented at congresses and published in high impact journals Development of experimental reactors for selected cases focused on the use of microbial consortiums (WP 4 The objective of this WP was to test, at different scales, a selected group of organisms and processes selected considering the results of WP 3 The selected strains were used to leach the Panasqueira tailings and the Romania tailings from Bonzanta and Fânate The upscale of the leaching experiments was performed with fix bead columns The bioleaching dynamic showed that pore water had 10 x more metal concentration than percolating water The concept for biological extraction of metals from tailings was proposed associating bioleaching and negative pressure extraction of the leachate The deliverables 4 1 and 4 2 were presented at 2 congresses The concept for metal removal from sediments include (deliverable 4 3 bioaugmentation with autochthonous microorganisms and negative pressure to obtain pore water Assess the wastes produced by bioleaching and mixed (bio nano) treatment (WP 5 The objective was to assess the geochemical composition of the solid wastes obtained from WP 2 and the chemical composition of the leaching liquid from the wastes produced after metal recovery in WP 3 XRD determined composition of the sediments after bioleaching were obtained from Romanian mine sediments of Fânate The bioleachate composition of Panasqueira mine tailings using different bacterial strains was determined by IP MS The leachates were rich in Cu and Zn and low in W The characterization of the sediments and solutions after bioleaching (deliverables 5 1 and 5 2 were determined for all the experiments and can be assess in a database The deliverable 5 3 was not achieved Synthesis, communication, coordination (WP 6 The objectives were to create the necessary governance structure for an effective implementation and management All deliverables were achieved and we consider that at least in Portugal the project had high impact in the company Beraltin All information is available at the Website https :://www researchgate net/project/EU H 2020 ERA MIN 2 BIOCriticalMetals
Website visit project website
Network ERA-MIN
Call The Third ERA-MIN Joint Call (2015)

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 University of Coimbra Coordinator Portugal
2 University of Porto - Engineering Faculty Partner Portugal
3 National Research and Development Institute for Nonferrous and Rare Metals Partner Romania
4 National Institute of Research and Development for Biological Sciences Partner Romania
5 Universidad Nacional de San Luis Partner Argentina
6 Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro Partner Portugal
7 Sojitz Beralt Tin and Wolfram S.A. Observer Portugal
8 Geoplano, S.A. Partner Portugal
9 G.T INGENIERIA S.A. Partner Argentina
10 Direction de Mineria de la Provincia de San Luis Partner Argentina
11 Comision Nacional de Energia Atomica Partner Argentina