By El Mercurio

There are at least 14 bacteria capable of oxidize copper; that is, catching its impurities and decanting the pure ore, a gift from mother nature to the mining activity. Therefore, this process known as bioleaching began to be implemented as a less environmentally invasive alternative to obtain minerals such as copper, as compared to traditional ones. 

How does it work? Mineral piles are irrigated with chemical solutions enriched with bacteria and other microorganisms. The liquid penetrates the mineral’s core. With the passage of time the bacteria dissolve the iron and sulfur, and release the copper in a soluble form, which subsequently is conveyed to traditional plants, where it is extracted through solvents and then fixed in copper sheets, known as cathodes. 
The company BioSigma, created 13 years ago by Codelco and Nippon Mining to exploit the potential of this technology, has submitted over 160 patent applications in Chile and abroad from its research on microorganisms, and production and inoculation systems in piles and dumps.
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