Almost every gold producing country suffers from the negative impacts of mining on the local environment. An old dream of biomining started to rise on the surface as the answer for these mining problems.
Biomining is simply using micro-organisms and bacteria to harvest metals and minerals form low-grade ores. In gold mining cases, it presents a perfect solution. Rich gold ores has been depleted over the years, as 6,000 years of gold mining is quite enough to deplete more than 76% of gold on the planet.
The good news is, booming can extract gold from the lesser grades ore in a fiscal way. The problem though is it may not the best way of mass mining gold. Anyway, it can recycle gold used in electronics and modern industry, which is very hard to recycle.
The magic micro-organism that can do the mining job is bacteria from the Protobacteria family, a genus called Acidithiobacillus. These little dudes extract gold from iron or sulfur ores, consuming them in the process to give us precious gold. Some fungi also share these same features, and used as catalysts in mining processes or biomining itself.
Biomining offers here a cheap and clean alternative to the common heap leaching process using toxic cyanide. It can extract around 90% from a low-grade ore. The downside is the amount of time needed is far greater than the common smelting. It also needs special attention, as a biohazard leakage of sulfuric acid or heavy ions might have a similar negative effect on the environment as the tradional mining.
The bottom line is, biomining might be the answer to our depleted gold resources. It is more economical and less danger. But the amount of time needs patient, plus the mass -production scheme for such a mine is something that hasn’t been done before. It might be the answer to mining from seawater and such hard places. Lady luck hasn’t showed the biomining researches her beautiful face yet. We might see some results in a year, or 10!