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Biomining – Critical Minerals Recovery Using Microorganisms

Dr. Brigmon
Dr. Robin Brigmon
Savannah River National Laboratory
UGA Dept of Microbiology
404D, Biological Sciences
Type of Event:
Department Seminars

Biomining – Critical Minerals Recovery Using Microorganisms

Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential to many high-tech devices, and thus are of critical and strategic importance. Our goal is to develop cost-effective, environmentally friendly technologies for bioextracting and bioaccumulating REEs from several kinds of rocks and minerals. Microbes tested for bioextraction included Cupriavidus basiliensis SRS, a bacterium isolated from the Savannah River Site (SRS). When bastnaesite was inoculated with C. basiliensis SRS, extraction of REEs such as cerium (Ce), lanthanum (Ln), and neodymium (Nd) was significantly higher (>20 ppb) than for other cultures. Siderophores were identified as a potential biomining mechanism. Next-generation sequencing of 16S rRNA genes was used to monitor microbial population changes associated with biomining. C. basiliensis SRS, when added to mining material, dominated 99% of the microbial population. C. basiliensis SRS sorbed >90% Ce and Ln from solution over controls in biosorption studies. It was demonstrated that C. basiliensis SRS can bioextract select REEs from mined materials at ppm concentrations when combined with heat treatment. C. basiliensis SRS also successfully extracted Uranium (U) and Nickel (Ni) from contaminated SRS stream sediments. C. basiliensis SRS genome annotation reveals numerous putative proteins responsible for metal acquisition and homeostasis. Further studies of bioremediation, bioextraction, and molecular characterization are ongoing to understand and develop biomining strategies.

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