School of Science
The economic recovery of metals from sulfide ores has become a topic of increasing interest due to the escalating demand for critical minerals and the reducing grade of available ores. Bioleaching is the use of acidophilic iron and sulfur-oxidising microorganisms to facilitate the extraction of base metals from primary sulfide ores and tailings. One significant issue limiting the use of bioleaching is the availability of freshwater due to the sensitivity of these microbes to chloride. The use of saline tolerant acidophilic iron- and-sulfur oxidising microorganisms will go a long way to addressing this issue. There are three possible means of sourcing suitable microorganisms; adaptation, genetic engineering and bioprospecting, with bioprospecting showing the greatest possibilities. Bioprospecting in search of native organisms for bioleaching operations has led researchers to numerous locations around the world and the isolation of iron- and sulfur-oxidising acidophiles that are capable of tolerating high levels of salinity has been of particular interest in these investigations.
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