Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe

The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) with about 700 employees is the central geoscientific authority providing advice to the German Federal Government in all geo-relevant questions. It is subordinate to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The BGR geomicrobiology unit belongs to the department for raw materials and has specific expertise in the field of metal extraction using microorganisms (bioleaching/ biomining). Since 1973 several projects in this field have been carried out and the results have regularly been published in international recognized journals (> 100 papers). Additional geomicrobiological R&D projects are currently carried out concerning carbon capture and storage (CCS), microbial degradation of hydrocarbons, and the deep biosphere.

Bioleaching experiment in one of eight 2 L bioreactors

The work of the geomicrobiologists includes the analysis of microbial communities in environmental samples using molecular methods as well as the isolation and characterisation of microorganisms and the maintenance of the collection of bacteria and fungi (> 1000 strains). Their tasks also include the identification of metabolic products of microorganisms. At the same time, the scientists offer interdisciplinary support to other working groups within the BGR including the Deutsche Rohstoffagentur (DERA). They also cooperate with foreign partners in research projects, scientific-technical cooperation (WTZ), and in projects of technical cooperation (TZ).

Current third party funded projects in BGR geomicrobiology related to biomining: 

  • 2014-2017, BMBF, Resource efficiency Germany-France: Composition EcoMetals - Innovative eco-efficient biohydrometallurgy process for the recovery of strategic and rare metals: primary and secondary resources

  • 2014, BMBF, WTZ with Cuba, Biomining of laterites

  • 2013-2015, Grant of Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation to Dr. Jeannette Marrero Coto, Molecular mechanism of anoxic bioleaching by bacteria for the recovery of nickel and cobalt from Cuban laterites  

  • 2012-2015, BMBF, r3, Chemisch - biotechnologische Gewinnung von Wertstoffen aus Braunkohlenkraftwerksasche 

Work packages

  • Work package 2: Selection of autotrophic, acidophilic iron-/sulfur-oxidizers for bioleaching, electrochemical leaching and bioleaching in lab-scale stirred-tank reactors with BRGM and community monitoring

  • Work package 3: Selective precipitation of metal sulfides from pregnant leach solutions (WP2) utilizing acidophilic sulfate-reducers




Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe
Stilleweg 2
30655 Hannover


Prof. Dr. Axel Schippers

+49 511 643 3103

Dr. Sabrina Hedrich

+49 511 643 3187

Helmholtz-Institut Freiberg für Ressourcentechnologie

Halsbrücker Str. 34
09599 Freiberg, Germany


BRGM - Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières

avenue Claude Guillemin, BP 36009
45060 Orléans Cedex 2, France


EcoMetals is a transnational research project aiming at the development of innovative biohydrometallurgical processes for the extraction of copper and other (associated) metals from coppershale.. The project receives funding from the French ANR (L’Agence nationale de la recherche) and the German Ministry of Education and Research BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) under the reference number 033RF001.

In total, 17 partners from science and industry collaborate in this project. Start of the project was in February 2014 and it will run until June 2017. 

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