Bioleaching with genomics: optimizing bioprocesses for gold recovery with BacTech Environmental Corp.
Dr Paul Miller, Dr Nadia Mykytczuk, Dr Madiha Khan
BacTech Environmental Corporation has developed the patented BACOX technology that harnesses the abilities of microbial communities for improved bioleaching and metal recovery from discarded mine tailings. We address the need to characterize the microbial communities present in the bioreactor seed mixtures in order to better apply and optimize the bioreactor processes for efficient mineral yields along with effective toxicity reduction of the tailings materials. Genomics tools have the potential to accelerate innovation in bioprocess development as they are being developed and scaled-up for application and operation. Using selective culturing and metagenomic analyses, we will aim to identify and characterize the optimal oxidation reactions and the microbial species that are best suited to enhance gold recovery from arsenopyrite tailings. Clearly identifying the functional pathways that are active during the leaching tests allows us to determine rate limiting steps that might be optimized with modifying operational parameters for the BACOX process. As the integration of established bioleaching technology and genomics mature with projects like this, it is anticipated that genomics tools will help refine bioleaching and allow for further innovation and application of this technology to a variety of mine wastes for effective metal recovery and remediation.