The EcoMetals project aims at the development of innovative processes for copper (and associated metals) extraction by means of biotechnology (see box below for further information).
17 partners coming from (mining and processing) industries and sciences in France, Germany and Poland collaborate in this ambitious transnational and interdisciplinary project.
Biotechnological processes are an energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive way for extracting and recycling important industry metals and strategic high tech raw materials. Here, methods involving bacteria, other microorganisms, and biomolecules are used to leach metals from the ore (bioleaching) and selectively separate them (biosorption, biomineralization). Not only are these methods 100 percent biological, but they are also superior to more conventional methods in other respects: Today, metals usually occur in highly complex ores and at very low concentrations. This goes for naturally existing primary resources as much as it does for secondary resources that are found as part of e-waste, for instance. To utilize them, one needs innovative technologies. Biological methods are well suited to increasing both the amount and diversity of usable resources.
In developed countries such as France and Germany, mineral and metal containing resources are the basis for important industrial sectors. Hence, ensuring a sustainable supply of these resources is of vital interest for the economy. Furthermore, the increasing costs of metals promote the interest on domestic and potential economically minable metal ore deposits and recycling of metals from old mining wastes. The steadily increasing worldwide urbanization and industrialization has been leading to an increased demand of industrial metals, especially of copper.
The project was started in January 2014, and according to plan will be completed by the end of June 2017. The kick-off meeting in April 2014 gathered all project partners for the first time in order to discuss the work program in detail. The launch of the website was due end of May 2014. Further information on additional activities will be updated occasionally.