An Overview Of Sustainable Copper Recovery Method Via Bioleaching
Since early 1930s, the copper mining industry has been the economic and social pillar of Zambia with about 80% contribution to the total export earnings and about 13% Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the copper mining industry has been employing traditional techniques which have disruptive effects such as land degradation, air and water pollution which pose long term threats on the local livelihood of the people and biodiversity. Furthermore, the ore mineralogical composition has changed through the years of exploitation of the copper in Zambia, the copper oxides have become scarce; the only sources of copper are sulfides, and its content has diminished down to approximately 1%. Bioleaching has emerged as an alternative and sustainable technology with great potentials to process bulky low grade sulphide mineral ores with minimum environmental degradation using low capital expenditure. This study looks at an overview of copper mining in Zambia and presents new opportunities related to the development of sustainable method for copper recovery by means of bioleaching. The Zambian Copperbelt is part of the Central African Copperbelt which forms one of the world's largest metallogenic provinces containing one-fifth of all global copper resources with low grade. Reports show that more than one billion tons of ore (c.2.7% Cu) has so far been mined from the mines on the Copperbelt Province of Zambia and conservative estimates suggest that a further two billion tons await exploitation. This provides considerable opportunities for further exploration and mining in the country. Zambia needs to focus its effort on research in bioleaching process and its application to achieve sustainable copper recovery within the context of economical, ecological and social sustainability.
Index Terms- Bioleaching, Copper Extraction, Sustainable Mining, Mining in Zambia.