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AbstractFOREWORD It is a long way from theoretical considerations and laboratory experiments to technical applications, especially with the economic uncertainties lurking in the background. Since the publication in 1964 by Silverman and Ehrlich, containing a survey of what had until then been tried in microbiological formation and degradation of minerals by thiobacilli and other microorganisms, technical applications of thiobacilli have been developed on a broad scale only for sulphidic copper ores and for uranium ores along the lines of the primary program for low-grade ores, heap leaching and in-situ leaching of exhausted mines. During the last 10 years, new topics of leaching research have been discussed or are already developing: batch leaching with suspensions of ore concentrates; combined methods of chemical and microbial, and of electrolytic and microbial leaching; experiments to separate heavy-metal mixtures by microbial methods; leaching at high temperatures within the biological range or at high hydrostatic pressures; uranium leaching of phosphorites; leaching of industrial wastes and residues; application of acid-producing microorganisms other than thiobacilli; problems of freshwater shortage and its circumvention by the use of brackish water or sea water and adapted Thiobacillus strains; synergistic effects of thiobacilli and other microorganisms during the leaching process; treatment of mining waste waters with thiobacilli; relations between metal precipitation and solubilisation in the formation of sedimentary ore beds and in leaching processes. A quite different approach to leaching processes is the use of complexing or chelating metabolites produced by heterotrophic microorganisms. This had already been tried successfully by Perkins and Novielli (1962) with manganese oxides; it is again being discussed on a broader basis. Most of these topics were discussed or at least mentioned at our Conference, but some were not yet touched upon. As far as the technical and economic situation, the discussions on waste problems, environmental contamination, and shortages of raw materials are concerned, we may assume that biotechnical leaching has not yet reached its high point, but will continue to be extended and developed. | hope that the Conference will stimulate interest in this field of biotechnical research and also discussions between microbiologists and engineers of the mining and metallurgical industries on problems where interdisciplinary contacts may be profitable to both sides. | acknowledge with pleasure the support of this Conference by Dr. M.-R. Kula, Scientific Director of the GBF. | am especially grateful to the authors, and to Dr. Walsdorff of the GBF for their cooperation in preparing this volume. Braunschweig, July 1977 W. Schwartz Research and development at the GBF (Institute for Biotechnological Research Ltd.) is centered on the apparently unlimited biosynthetic capabilities of living cells: microorganisms as well as cell cultures. This potential is exploited for the production of organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals and materials such as single cell protein and specific enzymes. This also involves engineering, scale-up and development of new methods. Through the Leaching Conference, held here on 23-26 March 1977, the GBF has for the first time supported a scientific discipline that, although belonging to Biotechnology, is at present not being worked on at this Institute. However, the scientists at the GBF are aware that in recent years the leaching of low-grade ores has made fast progress in some areas. Thus we welcomed Prof. Schwartz’s suggestion to invite specialists in this field to a conference, in order to obtain a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the field and to learn of problems and progress. We thank the participants of this Conference for their successful effort. It was decided to publish the papers of the Conference in the GBF Monograph Series, since, according to experts on modern leaching, there exists neither a comprehensive book nor a symposium volume that reflects the state of the art. This was clearly a correct decision, judging by the numerous requests already received. The present volume not only makes available a collection of the complete papers to the participants of the Conference, but is also intended to let other research groups in industry and academia gain insight into the area of microbial leaching, and to stimulate work in this field, especially in our country, where efforts are made to intensify work in this direction. Braunschweig-Stöckheim, July 1977 M.-R. Kula
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