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Uranium bio-leaching


Development of technology for drillhole in-situ bacterial and chemical leaching of uranium with an incidental complex extraction of rare and rare-earth metals from uranium deposits of northern Kazakhstan.”

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-IND/Industrial Biotechnology/Biotechnology
  • BIO-MIB/Microbiology/Biotechnology

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Limited Liability Partnership Analytical Center Biomedpreparat, Kazakstan, Stepnogorsk

Supporting institutes

  • Limited Liability Partnership BioGeoTech, Kazakstan, Stepnogorsk


  • Institute of Bioprocess Engineering, Germany, Erlangen

Project summary

The purpose of the project is to develop the technology for drillhole in-situ bacterial and chemical leaching of uranium with an incidental complex extraction of rare and rare-earth metals.
Today there is a tendency to deplete the reserves of easily-mined uranium raw. Existing mines face the problem of processing rocks with complex mineral base, which until recently belonged to the cut-off grade ore. The fields where uranium is mined with the help of drillhole in-situ method are not the exception. During the production unoxidized rocks predominate, which requires the use of oxidizing agents, the use of which significantly increases the production costs and reduces the profitability of the deposits. Biotechnologies using oxidation potential of chemolithotrophic microflora to enhance the redox potential of leaching solutions may become the alternative. Also it is very important to note a significant content of rare and rare-earth elements, which can potentially be recovered from the circulating solutions by means of bio-sorption and bioaccumulation.
The project is expected to develop the technology improving the performance of uranium mines operating on the principle of drillhole in-situ leaching due to the use of chemolithotrophic microorganisms regenerating the ions of ferric iron in the leaching solutions. The microorganisms are supposed to be immobilized on a solid inert carrier to improve specific oxidative activity, and the possibility to create on its basis biosorbent for accumulation of rare and rare-earth elements is seriously considered.
The pool - bioreator of flow type based on immobilized on solid carrier microorganisms capable of regenerating the active oxidant – the ions of ferric iron and having the ability to biosorption and bioaccumulation of rare and rare-earth elements will be designed.
The principal difference between the technology proposed in the projectа from currently available analogues is the use of microorganisms for the regeneration of ferric iron ions in technological solutions used at drillhole in-situ leaching of uranium, as well as the simultaneous extraction of rare and rare-earth metals.
Implementation of the project results on existing fields can extend their life due to the extraction of uranium on one side and simultaneous extraction of rare metals on the other side with little capital investments in the infrastructure of the mine, which undoubtedly has a great socio-economic impact for the regions focused on the extraction of uranium years ago. It is important to note that the technology, proposed by us, does not affect the environment.
Project Manager - Balpanov Darkhan Serikovich, Ph.D., a leading researcher of LLP "NAC" Biomedpreparat."
Research interests: chemistry, biotechnology, hydrometallurgy.
During last three years he has been the head of the project funded by the KH MES "Development of technology for deep processing of waste and cut –off grade ores of copper-and-gold mining enterprises with complex extraction of valuable metals." As a result of the work under the leadership of D.S. Balpanov, 12 highly-active strains of iron and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria were isolated. The technology of bacterial heap leaching of copper from chalcocite ores at the deposit Benkala LLP "Kazkuper" has been successfully implemented. At the moment, the works on installation of the vat are taking place and the vat for bacterial-chemical leaching of gold is being prepared for operation at Aksu gold factory of "Kazakhaltyn."
According to the results of research activities in the field of bio-hydrometallurgy four applications were submitted to receive the Eurasian patents.
The project will provide an opportunity for scientists and engineers, who in the past were involved in the development of biological weapons of mass destruction; it will give them the opportunity to implement their knowledge and skills in peaceful research activities.
The supposed term of the project is 3 years. Within the first year we plan to perform the works related to the selection of ore and technological solutions, the study of their chemical elemental composition, the study of microbiota to find indigenous microorganisms adapted to the conditions of a particular mine and selection of strains.
The second year of the project is supposed to be devoted to work on the designed breeding of the isolates to form their resistance to toxic elements and hostile environments. Development of an effective microbial consortium and its immobilization on the carrier.
In the final year it is expected to conduct pilot works for the implementation of pilot plants at the existing uranium deposits. To collect and to develop a package of normative and technical documentation to design the results of scientific and technical activities and protect copyrights.
Collaborators will participate in the discussion of the project results; give guidelines for the implementation of the project, take part in joint training seminars. Collaborators will also help to achieve a successful outcome of the project studying the experience of the leading experts in their respective countries and auditing Kazakh laboratories. Collaborator will facilitate the participation of laboratory staff in international conferences related to the topic of the project, in general publications and patenting of research results.


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