Recovering valuable inorganic raw materials

Biomining

In biomining, raw materials such as metals including rare earths can be tapped and made available again for high-tech applications with the help of biotechnologies and biological knowledge.
In biomining, raw materials such as metals including rare earths can be tapped and made available again for high-tech applications with the help of biotechnologies and biological knowledge.
One tonne of electronic waste contains about 250 grams of gold. With the help of biotechnologies and biological knowledge, raw materials that are bound in waste such as electronic scrap can be made usable.
One tonne of electronic waste contains about 250 grams of gold. With the help of biotechnologies and biological knowledge, raw materials that are bound in waste such as electronic scrap can be made usable.
The mining of raw materials such as metals and rare earths is often very harmful to the environment. The recovery of these raw materials from waste or other sources, such as mine tailings, using biological processes can be more efficient and conserve resources.
The mining of raw materials such as metals and rare earths is often very harmful to the environment. The recovery of these raw materials from waste or other sources, such as mine tailings, using biological processes can be more efficient and conserve resources.
Sustainably applied biomining, i.e. the extraction of high-tech raw materials such as metals including rare earths from waste or other sources, can support the transition to a more sustainable circular economy in Baden-Württemberg.
Sustainably applied biomining, i.e. the extraction of high-tech raw materials such as metals including rare earths from waste or other sources, can support the transition to a more sustainable circular economy in Baden-Württemberg.

Innovative biotechnologies for the recovery of inorganic substances

As a federate state with a strong industrial sector and an economic focus on plant engineering, Baden-Württemberg needs a sustainably secure supply of high-tech raw materials such as metals including rare earths. Innovative biological technologies such as biomining are supposed to help.

Nature has optimised its procedures and processes over long periods of time, and many natural processes are considered resource-saving and highly efficient. If microorganisms, either as a whole or in individual components, their metabolic performance and metabolic products are used within the framework of innovative biological technologies, they can help to consume fewer fossil raw materials and protect the environment.

In this way, deposits with low concentrations of natural raw materials can be exploited, and raw materials bound in waste such as slag from industrial metal production or electrical scrap can be made usable. It is also possible to recover nitrogen or phosphorus compounds, which are important plant nutrients. 

Biomining can also be combined with other innovative processes. For example, metals can be recovered from filter dusts from exhaust air purification plants. The exhaust air itself can be processed for the recovery of organic basic material for the chemical industry, as described for CO2-Recycling. A corresponding feasibility study is currently being conducted and a funding programme is being planned.

If innovative technologies such as biomining and phytomining (use of plants for the purpose of recovery) become established and widespread, this can support the shift towards a more sustainable economy in Baden-Württemberg.

Priorities in the state strategy for a sustainable bioeconomy

The Ministry of Environment funds a technology and market study as well as short feasibility studies in this important area. The studies should provide, among other things,

  • an overview of the potentials and competencies (technologies, potential resources and networks) for biomining applications and
  • a comprehensive overview of the actors from application-oriented research and industry in the field of biomining.

In addition, the feasibility studies will concretely present the potential sources and the possibilities for recovery by means of biomining technologies and evaluate them based on ecological and economic criteria.

The recovery of inorganic substances is anchored in the state strategy for a sustainable bioeconomy with its own measure (M19).

Among others, disused electronic devises contain many valuable, rare metals (so-called critical raw materials). In order to recover these valuable materials, microorganisms can be used in the biomining process.
Among others, disused electronic devises contain many valuable, rare metals (so-called critical raw materials). In order to recover these valuable materials, microorganisms can be used in the biomining process.