Mineral resources potential at depth (>1km) is large in Europe as shown by current research (ProMine) but new methods are need for recovering them in an economic and environmentally acceptable manner. BioMOre objectives are to develop new technological concepts for in situ recovering metals from deep deposits using controlled stimulation of pre-existing fractures in combination with in-situ bioleaching. Stimulation is a standard technology for recovering water and geothermal energy. An innovative technology for deep metal recovery will be developed like in geothermal mining. Bacterial assisted in-situ recovery, an established technology for recovering metals from low grade ores, tailing and polluted soils, has progressed over the past 10 years, and will be optimized for deep mining conditions. The environmental security of the test sites will be guaranteed by the appropriate technical preparation. Sustainability indicators based on regulatory requirements of the European Commission will be applied for feasibility considerations.
The program will comprise two main phases.
Phase I (program 2015-2018): An underground pilot test pilot well will be operated in order to allow the stimulation of natural fractures at depth. Risk assessment and mitigation, as well as safety measures, will form a major part of the project in order to guarantee environmental security. A methodology for quantifying the risks will be developed together with monitoring procedures. Major efforts will focus on advanced monitoring and water processing technologies in order to limit or avoid any risks in the operational area, as well as reducing the volumes of water involved in the process. Metals which will form the primary target of this technology including Cu, Zn, Ni, Pb, and Co, but additional research will be carried out on bacteria and inoculants in order to address the recovery of Mo, Re, REE, and precious metals. High frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields will be tested to enhance the in situ dissolution of metals in ore bearing horizons, as a pre-bacterial leaching step. Metal recovery from brines will be achieved using bacterial processing, with the inoculants adjusted to the individual composition of the brine. The optimal inoculants will be determined by lab investigations. Hydrometallurgical methods for metal separation from the brine with the ore horizon or on surface will be tested and evaluated and a choice made for optimal metal recovery, including selective precipitation by bacterial or physical/chemical separation techniques. A proposed test site will be selected from the copper bearing Kupferschiefer formations. This site contains a number of natural impermeable geological barriers (clay and salt layers) which will prevent leakage of metalliferous brines into the groundwater. Technical site preparation by applying new encapsulation technologies will provide further pre-conditions for ecological (green) production.
This first phase will be used to identify a possible target to establish a pilot site (Phase II) where wells will be drilled from the surface to access the ore body and perform the in-situ bioleaching process.
The program will be structured around eight working packages including: WP1 - Biotechnology, optimizing bio-leaching chemistry and stimulating processes – leader Bangor Unv. (UK), WP2 - Site selection, monitoring, risk assessment, 3&4D modeling, geophysical & geological data integration – leader GEOS. (D), WP3 - Reactor design, well design, exploration, core drilling and sampling injection well stimulation – leader KGHM (PL); WP4: Metal production, hydrometallury aspects – leader : HATCH (UK); WP5: Environmental impact and sustainability assessment, site closure, in situ safe-guarding, green mining – Leader: Kemakta (S); WP6: Exploitation, dissemination, training & education, promoting, public relations , result exploitation - Leader: DMT (D); WP7: Pre-feasibility study, economic evaluation, next step for pilot plant - Leader: UIT (D); WP8: Management Leader: MIRO (UK).
Phase II: a pilot site will established from the surface. This second phase will be proposed as a demonstrative project in the future call 2018.
Turn into accessible commodities mineralizations at depths greater than 1km normally not accessible by standard mining practice. Avoid huge amount of in-situ mining wastes, tailings, and dirty ponds reducing the environmental impacts and improving chances for public acceptance. Possibility to extract metals such as Cu, Zn, Ni, Co by circulating solutions at depth. Decrease costs of extraction by lowering infrastructure investments. Develop solution mining socially more acceptable by the public. Phase II: a multi well pilot project will be conceived and designed according to results obtained in phase I. This pilot will aim at recovering metals from the surface using multi drills in which recovering bioleaching fluids will be circulated. This second phase II will be proposed as a demonstrative project in the future call 2018. In demonstrative, this new in-situ bioleaching technology is expected to decrease the number of workers accidents in the mining industry compared to traditional underground mining.
In successful, BioMORE paradigm is expected to be :a revolution in mining techniques like deviate wells in mining; a new technology transferred from oil & gas industry to mining, mining technology coupled with advanced in-situ bioleaching methods, more secure methods decreasing rate per full-time workers.
WP8: Project management (administrative and technical); WP8: Management of dissemination and exploitation, promotion and PR issues, probably leading WP8; WP5: Contributing to all assessment activities, sustainability and green mining aspects; WP2: Contributing to risk assessment