Chile’s state mining company announces environmentally friendly innovation

The future of mining looks more eco-friendly in Chile with the introduction of an innovative process that uses organic materials.

Last week, Chile’s copper giant announced, Codelco, unveiled alongside their subsidiary, BioSigma, the a new technology that will help mining projects in Chile and the environment alike.

The advancement is a breakthrough in copper extraction. In the past, extracting bits of copper from ore

was limited and difficult and often involved the use of chemicals like cyanide. Their new approach is an environmentally friendly innovation that uses organic materials to help break down the ore. It also allows miners to pull copper from ore with few or small copper deposits.

BioSigma General Manager Ricardo Badilla stated during last week’s press conference, “This is a new technological leap that will allow us to use bioleaching processes to extract scarce metals from sulfurated primary ores, and test, on a large scale, methods that have already worked in the lab and during test runs.”

Bioleaching is used when there are relatively small amounts of copper deposit in the ore. The hungry bacterial microorganisms go to work on the ore, thereby separating it from the valuable copper – leaving the copper intact.

At the same press conference, BioSigma officials announced an additional production plant  to further investigate copper extraction methods.The plant, located near the northern Chilean city of Calama, will process around one million tons of copper.

BioSigma has yet to announce their long-term plans for new bioleaching research, as their contract in Calama currently only lasts until July 2013. However, during the next year more than 150 employees are expected to be hard at work testing bioleaching and metal-extraction methods.