Mintek produces first Commercial-Sized Copper Cathodes using Proprietary bioleaching Technology

Find out how Mintek's patented technology and processes use naturally occurring bacteria to liberate valuable metals from refractory sulphide ores and concentrates. The environmentally friendly solution for mining industry.

Mintek and its partners Industrias Peñoles SA de CV of Mexico (Peñoles) and BacTech Enviromet Corporation of Canada (BacTech), announced they have produced the first commercial-sized copper cathodes from copper concentrate using their proprietary bioleach process technology.  Procesos Biometalúrgicos SA de CV (PBM), a joint venture company representing all three partners, has produced several tonnes of cathode at its demonstration plant in Monterrey, Mexico, using an integrated bioleach, solvent extraction and electrowinning circuit, with design capacity for 500 kg/day of copper. 'The production of commercial-sized cathodes is a clear demonstration that the Mintek - BacTech proprietary bioleach process technology is able to recover copper from sulphide concentrates,' said Dr Tony Pinches, Manager of the Biotechnology Division, Mintek. 'Given the environmental, capital and operating cost advantages that the technology offers over traditional treatment processes, it is only a matter of time before bioleaching combined with solvent extraction and electrowinning becomes the process of choice in the US$7 billion smelting industry and for other base metal projects.' The production of the copper cathodes also represents a significant step towards the completion of a feasibility study being conducted by PBM to evaluate the viability of building, owning and operating a commercial plant for toll treatment of concentrates and for projects in which PBM owns an equity interest. The feasibility study, based on the performance of the demonstration plant, is expected to be completed by the end of February 2002. The Mintek - BacTech proprietary bioleach process technology uses naturally occurring bacteria to oxidize sulphides, liberating valuable metals from refractory sulphide ores and concentrates. Historically, the bulk of the world's base metal supply has come from sulphidic ores. Typically, these ores have been milled and floated to produce a concentrate of higher metal grades. This concentrate is then treated by roasting or smelting and refining to produce metal. 'The problem with this traditional method is that the roasting and smelting process generates large quantities of sulphur dioxide gases,' Dr Pinches said. 'In many cases, so-called 'dirty concentrates' can also release toxic elements (such as arsenic) which are increasingly becoming environmentally unacceptable. 'The Mintek - BacTech proprietary process provides mining companies with the ideal solution -- an environmentally friendly technology that keeps them on the right side of the environmental debate and allows the production of metal from previously uneconomic ore or concentrate,' Dr Pinches said. 'Peñoles, through their belief in the technology and financial commitment to PBM have played a pivotal role in the development of the process to recover copper from sulphide concentrates. 'Mintek - BacTech and PBM are also continuing to review a number of other base and precious metals project opportunities that we believe may be amenable to our proprietary process technology,' said Dr Pinches. 'This breakthrough on copper presents a tremendous opportunity for all partners of PBM to create substantial shareholder value through the acquisition of interests in such projects.' Mintek's patented technology and processes use naturally occurring bacteria to liberate valuable metals from refractory sulphide ores and concentrates. Mintek's commercially proven, cost-effective, proprietary-process technology is an environmentally benign alternative to the traditional smelting process. Mintek's business strategy is to demonstrate the technology and to acquire equity interests or sell rights for cash and royalties where the technology can add significant value in mining ventures in Southern Africa and world-wide.   Details below.


November 2001