Carbon-neutral biosurfactants may help boost mineral extraction from low-grade ores

Copper ore. (Reference image by James St. John, Flickr).

Cleantech company Locus Fermentation Solutions announced the launching of a new mining operating division whose focus will be on developing and commercializing carbon-neutral biosurfactant additives to boost mineral extraction from low-grade ores.

Biosurfactants are compounds of ​​microbial origin that lower the surface tension between two liquids, between a gas and a liquid, or between a liquid and a solid. Thus, they may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, or dispersants.

In a press release, LFS said its biosurfactant technology shows potential as an effective, environmentally friendly solution for extracting essential minerals needed to fuel the green energy revolution.

Carbon-neutral biosurfactants may help boost mineral extraction from low-grade ores
(Graph provided by Locus Mining Solutions).

According to the US-based firm, when tested in traditional copper extraction processes, its renewable biosurfactant additives resulted in 138% more acid-insoluble copper recovered and 28% better performance than sulfuric acid. 

The technology also allowed for a 40% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, while also lowering sulphur oxide-associated emissions by 70% and nitrogen oxide-associated emissions by 70%.

“The world’s growing reliance on minerals and metals in the transition to a clean energy future is exceeding current extraction capabilities creating an imperative need for sustainable technologies that can reach trapped resources,” Andrew Lefkowitz, co-founder of Locus FS, said in the media brief.

“Our zero-carbon biosurfactants have an unmatched ability to reach and extract more natural resources. We’re addressing critical environmental and economic concerns to transform the industry, reduce environmental impact and support economic growth in the US.”