Bioleaching of Kupferschiefer blackshale – A review including perspectives of the Ecometals project - BRGM - Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières Access content directly
Journal Articles Minerals Engineering Year : 2015

Bioleaching of Kupferschiefer blackshale – A review including perspectives of the Ecometals project


In Europe, most of the primary copper resources that possess a high or moderate amount of metals, have a reasonable accessibility and are easy to process are exhausted. In this context, low grade and complex ores as well as old waste deposits related to past mining activities are receiving increasing attention. For an economic exploitation of such ores and resources, with quite different mineral matrix, new and efficient methods need to be developed. Bioleaching is a reliable and promising option. Among the different kinds of copper mineralisation that can be found in Europe, sulphidic Kupferschiefer deposits have been explored and exploited for years in Germany and Poland. They are Europe’s largest copper reserve with more than 60 million tons of Cu, and contain additional associated metals such as Ag, Pb, Zn and possibly other high-value metals. Kupferschiefer deposits are currently under exploitation in Poland, but process operations are more and more penalised by the significant amounts of organic matter and arsenic present in this type of ores. Therefore bioleaching is more and more considered as a credible alternative to the pyrometallurgical technology which may no longer be feasible in future given the concentrate chemistry. In this context, this paper provides an overview of the previous work on the geology, mineralogy, and (bio)processing of the Kupferschiefer. It will also present new opportunities and challenges related to the development of innovative methods for metal recovery by means of biotechnology. Generally, bioleaching of Kupferschiefer is influenced by the mineralogical nature of sulphides and organic matter contained in the ores. For example, recalcitrance of chalcopyrite during leaching is a major limitation of biohydrometallurgy applied to copper ores in general and blackshales in particular. Organic matter, moreover, causes also flotation problems. However, the organic materials especially the metallorganic compounds containing platinum group (PGE) or rare earth elements (REE) may make processing of Kupferschiefer economically interesting. The first works dealing with Kupferschiefer bioleaching in Europe date back more than three decades, and were pursued again beginning of the 21st century in the European Bioshale project. This project demonstrated the overall efficiency of continuous stirred tank reactors (CSTR) bioleaching of a blackshale concentrate with an extraction rate above 90%. Nevertheless, two possible improvement paths were identified: reducing the tank size or improving chalcopyrite dissolution affecting the operation efficiency. These challenges were then further addressed in ProMine project opening new perspectives for bioleaching of Kupferschiefer ores which will be dealt with in the French–German project Ecometals.
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hal-01356740 , version 1 (26-08-2016)



S. Kutschke, Anne-Gwenaëlle Guezennec, S. Hedrich, A. Schippers, G. Borg, et al.. Bioleaching of Kupferschiefer blackshale – A review including perspectives of the Ecometals project. Minerals Engineering, 2015, 75, pp.116-125. ⟨10.1016/j.mineng.2014.09.015⟩. ⟨hal-01356740⟩


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