Low-grade materials are stockpiled in mining operations because they are sub-economic, and are effectively considered waste. These piles contain huge quantities of copper due to their sheer size, and the ability to extract that copper would turn them into a resource rather than waste. This PhD project is focused on the mechanisms controlling the leaching of copper ore minerals by microorganisms. These will be studied by determining how different nutrients, substrates and combinations of common bioleaching bacteria affect the ability of these bacteria to attach to ore minerals and leach them, using electron microscopy and analytical geochemistry to do so. This could contribute to the development of a bioleaching processing method as a viable option for low-grade copper reserves.

Advisors:

Prof Gordon Southam, Prof Paulo Vasconcelos

Project members

Heike Bostelmann

Heike Bostelmann

PhD candidate