The American Geosciences web site defines four main mining methods: underground, open surface (pit), placer, and in-situ mining, but other types of mining are also making an impact. The latest is a study to determine if cobalt can be “mined” from Geobacter, bacteria found in soil and sediment. According to a mining.com article, scientists at Michigan State University found that Geobacter are able to extract cobalt from rust without letting it penetrate their cells and kill them.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, the researchers explain that Geobacter not only survive being exposed to cobalt, they essentially coat themselves with the metal.
“They form cobalt nanoparticles on their surface. They metallize themselves and it’s like a shield that protects them,” Gemma Reguera, lead author of the study, said. “It’s like Iron Man when he puts on the suit.”
This discovery is considered to be a proof-of-concept that opens the door to possibly using Geobacter as the basis of new biotechnology to reclaim and recycle cobalt from lithium-ion batteries.
Any new source of cobalt is important, because cobalt and lithium are the most significant materials required to produce lithium-ion batteries, and they are in limited supply. According to another mining.com article, the boom in electric cars could more than quadruple demand for cobalt by 2030.
Learn more about other, non-traditional types of mining:
The American Geosciences web site describes biomining, the process of using microorganisms (microbes) to extract metals of economic interest from rock ores or mine waste. Biomining techniques may also be used to clean up sites that have been polluted with metals. The most common processes used in biomining are agitated leaching, dump leaching, and heap leaching.
Technologies for recycling e-waste are sometimes known as “urban mining.” E-waste is any consumer electronic product that becomes part of the waste stream when these items are discarded. To learn about emerging technologies and efforts to advance e-waste recycling, read the Advancing Mining blog post, Urban Mining May Bring New Supplies of Precious and Rare Earth Metals.
The mining industry is becoming interested in blockchain digital encryption technology to protect intellectual property, insider information, and other valuable data. Other potential applications include identifying cobalt and other conflict minerals, and blood diamonds. Read Can Blockchain Technology Save the Mining Industry from Cyber Threats? for more information:
If mining asteroids sounds out-of-this-world to you, you may be surprised by the amount of effort companies are dedicating to space mining projects. To learn more, read these blog posts:
- Small Country Has Big Plans for Asteroid Mining
- Colorado School of Mines Looks to the Future of Space Mining
- Technology from Space May Help Mining on Earth
For more mining industry news, visit the Cement, Coal & Minerals online learning center featuring content on all aspects of the mining industry, from exploration through processing, mineral analysis, and bulk weighing, monitoring, and sampling systems, and more.
Post Author: Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane.