Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

BioMOre Report Summary

Project ID: 642456
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.5.3.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BioMOre (New Mining Concept for Extracting Metals from Deep Ore Deposits using Biotechnology)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2016-07-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The European Union (EU) consumes 20 to 35% of the most important base metals worldwide while importing more than 80% of its commodities representing more than 23 billion euros per year. However, the potential of metallic minerals in Europe is huge. Some European countries such as Poland, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Ireland etc. possess critical raw materials. Most of the deposits have already been exploited up to depths of around 1 km where traditional mining technology reaches its limits. New methods are required for recovering these deposits in an economic, sustainable and environmentally acceptable manner.

BIOMOre is striving to reduce the gap between European supply and demand for metal & mineral resources by providing an alternative mining method to exploit mineral deposits that would neither be economically accessible nor exploitable using traditional mining methods.

The objective of BIOMOre is to develop advanced technological concepts for the in-situ recovery of metals from deep deposits using a combination of channeling and bioleaching. To achieve this, biogeochemical and geotechnological methods and models will be developed and optimized, and specialized equipment designed and built. Scientific and technological expert input will be contributed by the project partners, who come from seven European countries (Germany, Poland, France, Finland, Sweden, UK, Spain), Canada and the Rep. of South Africa.

If the results of BIOMOre are positive, a second phase of the project is anticipated in which a pilot plant will be built and operated to demonstrate the applicability of the process on industry scale.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work of BIOMOre in the first 18 months was characterised by two main activities. The first one was the development of the bio-leaching process in laboratory scale and the second one everything around the establishment of the foreseen underground test site at Rudna mine of KGHM in Poland.
We performed in in-depth investigation into the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the foreseen leaching process. During these activities, a couple of problems had to be solved so that at the end we are expecting a process that will successfully run also in the underground in-situ tests.
The preparation of the underground test site caused some delay that were mainly associated with unforeseen issues during the permitting process. Also, the location of the underground site had to be changed due to these delays, because the originally foreseen site would have been mined before the test period will end.
Nevertheless, towards the end of the reporting period, all conditions were met, the equipment (bioreactors, underground test setup, etc.) produced and the site prepared so that a reliable time plan for the tests could be achieved.
The attached pictures should the underground test site and a sketch of how the tests will work.
In parallel to the described activities, further work was carried out in modelling the geological, geochemical and geophysical situation associated with the process. Quite some significant advanced could be made here.
The work related to investigations into sustainability issues could be carried out as planned. The selection of sustainable development indicators and evaluation of baseline conditions as well as the review of environmental legislation and BREF documents could be finalised.
Quite some initial work on the assessment of the economic viability of the foreseen process was done. Related model were prepared and are now waiting for the data of the underground tests.
Last but not least, a lot of promotion and dissemination activities have been carried out. These led to intensive discussions with stakeholders especially in the Weißwasser region in Eastern Germany close to the Polish border, where concerns came up that a potential pilot plant using the BIOMOre approach (not part of the currently running BIOMOre project!!) could be established in that region.
To summarise, BIOMOre is well on track and will now step into the most important testing phase in-situ underground.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The BIOMOre project focuses on extracting metals from deep mineralised zones via refined economic and ecological methods. The innovative in-situ method proposed in the BIOMOre project will provide substantial benefits to the mining industry, the European economy and the environment.

Economy:
The increasing demand of technology (Cu, Zn, Ni, Pb, Co, Mo, Re, REE) or precious metals in the EU requires new and innovative, yet environmentally sustainable mining techniques. BIOMOre can offer efficient and eco-friendly solutions. Expanded prefeasibility studies and related capital expenditures and operational cost calculations will be part of the project.
Technology:
The aim of the BIOMOre project is to develop an optimised technological concept for the in-situ recovery of metals thereby operating at the surface without the need to establish an underground infrastructure. This technology will make commodities accessible at depths greater than 1000 metres which are not exploitable using conventional underground methods.
Environment:
The BIOMOre concept aims to reduce the environmental impacts of mining projects as a whole and achieve increased public acceptance. The application of this new technology will be based on mining legislation and adhere to environmental and water protection regulations.

The new concepts are targeted at accessing deep deposits of technology metals while reducing mining costs, surrounding infrastructure, environmental and social impact and remediation measures. Excavation may become largely dispensable and the generation of mine wastes is limited to manageable amounts. The entire project will be accompanied by a state-of-the-art risk analysis based on detailed site-specific information.
This will occur in conjunction with advanced monitoring and water processing technologies in order to maximise environmental protection. Finally, the BIOMOre concept will contribute to largely increased safety measures in European mines since most mining activities will be operated from the surface. It is thus expected that injury rates among miners will significantly decrease.

The BIOMOre approach offers numerous benefits compared to conventional mining techniques.
Economical benefits:
• reduction of the EU’s import dependency of technology minerals
• cost reduction of mining activities (surface and underground infrastructure, energy supply, tailings management)
• improvement of mine safety by operating from the surface, thereby eliminating the exposure of mine employees to underground conditions and hazards
• maintenance of job stability and expanding work force (mining industry, suppliers, machine engineering, IT, green technologies)
Technical benefits:
• extraction of metals from mineral deposits at depths of more than 1000 m below surface
• suitable even for densely populated areas due to its minimal footprint
Ecological benefits:
• the evaluation of sustainability measures is an integral part the of process development
• minimal surface infrastructure and less heavy lifting/haulage reduce the impact on habitats through the decrease in dust formation, noise and visual pollution
• energy consumption is curtailed
• the generation of mine waste is minimised
• potential environmental contamination originating from large tailings facilities like the development of metalliferous mine drainage is avoided

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