A group of investigators of the Biomining Laboratory of the Biotechnology Department of the University of Antofagasta, lead by the doctor Mario Esparza Mantilla, is looking for the method to use microorganisms to favor the mining to implement its speed and efficiency on the metal extraction procedures. This way, it would be possible to reduce the time used for the production of copper, which would mean saving on water, energy and a considerable improvement for the competitivity of the mining industry.
More specifically, these scientists are studying microorganisms that resist to environments with chlorine and according to what the responsible doctor explains “the bioleaching has several restrictions for the survival of the cells, for that reason we work with microorganisms that resist to chlorine, copper, and arsenic, which besides proliferate faster.
How does this microorganism work
Despite the mining insdustry already works the bioleaching with procaryont organisms, this new studied microorganism, promises to improve that process because even with it’s not lixiviant, its metabolic compounds and stimulate the growth of the bacterias which extract the copper based on lixiviation. According to the results obtained from this investigation, this fungus allows that the copper extraction gets accelerated and increased from 1% to even an 8%.
This investigation not only brings a sustainable contribution to the mining industry but also will get that the authorities ensure a better treatment of the natural areas of the Region of Antofagasta because the protagonist microorganisms of this discovery are extracted from their numerous environments.
The investigation today
The project is currently financed with UA founds and has had an important participation of their students of pre and postgraduate of the biochemistry and biotechnology area of the university. Thanks to this staff, the investigation has been allowed to go on. Nowadays they’re working on their patenting, remarking the legal inscription of the process that the team in developing.