Sustainability and biomining in focus

The increasing focus on sustainability and environmental impact of mining activity is the basis for two Mineral Engineering conferences to be held in Falmouth, Cornwall in June 2020. These conferences, on biomining and sustainable minerals, have relevance to activities within the SEESIMA project, such as within WP4 and WP5.

Biomining ’20

The first is the Biomining ’20 conference, to be held 8-9 June 2020 in Falmouth. This is the 10th time that this conference has been arranged (after a name change from the earlier title of ‘Biohydrometallurgy’). The conference focuses on the development, optimisation and implementation of integrated biomining processing of mineral ores. This is an alternative processing route whereby the microbes are used to cause or catalyse the release of metals from the ore. This includes the microbiology of heap or tank leaching, bioflotation. This approach can be used on low grade or complex ores, or on novel resources such as mine and electronic waste, or the rehabilitation of environments damaged by mining. As such, biomining is a contributor to the sustainability of mining activity.

Biomining has achieved increased attention in recent years, and a flagship implementation is represented by the Terrafame mine in Finland. The following cartoon, taken from here) illustrates one of the main bacteria (Thiobacillus ferroxidans) used in releasing copper metal from copper ore.

biomining - a sustainable mining activity.
one view of the new workforce in biomining, (by downtoearth.org.in)

Sustainable Minerals ’20

The second conference is the Sustainable Minerals ’20 conference, to be held from 10-11 June 2020, also in Falmouth, Cornwall. This is being held for the 6th time, and focuses on sustainability aspects of mining. Modern society’s extensive use of metals and mineral-based materials creates a strain on sustainable use of natural resources. Hence, mining needs a focus on sustainability.

The topics of Sustainability ’20 include:

  • Acid Mine drainage
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Energy recovery and reduction
  • Industrial applications
  • Processing of Industrial Wastes
  • Recycling of post-consumer materials
  • Development of geopolymers as cement alternatives.

The Eden Project – nearby in Cornwall

A further attraction in the Cornwall area is the possibility to visit the Eden Project, nearby. This was formerly an open pit mine, extracting china clay. After the mine was closed it was transformed into one of the largest tourist attractions in the United Kingdom. The two pictures below show the ‘before’ and ‘after’ views of the site. This is a great answer as to what to do with the hole in the ground after mining has finished. A different approach to sustainability and biomining!.

Transformation of a china clay pit mine into the Eden Project tourist attraction - a good example of sustainable mining activity.
‘Before’ and ‘After’ views of the transformation of the china clay pit mine into the Eden Project.

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