Existing metallurgical operations can be optimized by implementing engineered bioreactor systems in the process configuration. For instance, metals can be recovered safely and economically from process and waste streams using biogenic sulfide.
This paper focuses upon possible applications of high rate biotechnology in metallurgy and mining. Metal recovery from liquid streams (process bleed streams, leach water, waste streams), integrated removal of (fugitive) SO 2 , treatment of acid blowdown and other options will be described.
Practical examples are given. A large-scale application of biotechnology at Pasminco's Budel Zink refinery is described. Here acid plant blowdown is treated together with electrolyte magnesium bleed. Concentrated zinc sulfide (10 tpd) is produced biologically, eliminating the production of gypsum and closing the refinery sulfur cycle.
Recovery of metals from solution at Kovehute Pribram in the Czech Republic is the second practical example. In this case H 2 S is produced on-site for metal removal from an alkaline slag dump leachate.
At the Caribou mine in New Brunswick, Canada, acid mine drainage is treated with biogenic sulfide. This plant is situated upstream a lime neutralization plant. As a result, reusable ZnS is produced, the volume of the sludge (gypsum and hydroxides) from the lime plant is reduced by 50%, the sludge is free of heavy metals and the final effluent concentration of heavy metals is in the ppb range. In the second phase of this project, metals will be recovered from stored tailings, resulting in significant revenues.