Copper Mine, koppargruva

Project: Microbial consortia for enhanced copper recovery (MiCCuR)

The world’s demand for metals is increasing all the time while the available stocks are dwindling. This project will develop the industrial biotechnology of ‘biomining’ to extract copper from chalcopyrite, the largest remaining resource of copper mineral.

Facts about the project

Project manager
Mark Dopson
Other project members
Daniela Rios, Sören Bellenberg, Linnaeus University
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University, Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg Institute for Biosciences, Ruhr University Bochum, University of Cape Town, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, G.E.O.S. Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH
The project is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme ERA-MIN 2 (project MiCCuR) via Sweden’s innovation agency, Vinnova (contract 2019-03511)
From 2019-11-01 to 2022-10-31
Microbiology (Department of Biology and Environmental Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences)
Research group
Systems Biology of Microorganisms Research Group

Co-funded by the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union

More about the project

Biomining is the biotechnological process for metal extraction from sulfidic ores. This process exploits the ability of acidophilic microorganisms to catalyze chemical oxidation of insoluble metal sulfides to acid soluble sulfates. Bioleaching of copper minerals is usually performed in engineered heaps and this technology accounts for approximately 15-20% of the worldwide copper production.

This project will contribute to the EU’s Raw Materials Initiative and European Innovation Partnership strategies on raw materials through the enhanced resource efficiency achieved for copper resources, while at the same time reducing the environmental footprint of copper extraction. In achieving this, the project addresses the circular economy as well as the implementation of low carbon process options for copper recovery.

Through its potential for application to both low-grade copper deposits as well as smaller deposits, the project has potential to create new resource opportunities and reduce barriers to their exploitation. In this study, two laboratory-scale, proof-of-concept experiments to increase the efficiency of industrial bioleaching of chalcopyrite will be scaled up to ultimately reach demonstration in an industrial pilot bioheap. The applicants will use stirred tank and column reactors to move to larger scale before the most promising strategy will be tested in the pilot plant.

The consortium will cover the process in terms of innovation and research and will comprehensively study engineering, chemical, microbiological, molecular biological and 'omics' methods.

The project is part of the research in the research group Systems Biology of Microorganisms Research Group and in Linnaeus University Centre for Ecology and Evolution in Microbial model Systems (EEMiS).


MiCCuR blog