Pilot plant commissioning and operations for copper sulfide in situ indirect bioleaching
The “BIOMOre” project aims to prove the technical feasibility of indirect in situ bioleaching of sulfide minerals contained in a deep underground deposit, by bringing together the disciplines required to make a success. The underground location in Poland was provided by project partner KGHM inside an operating copper mine. Key components of this project were the design and construction of a pilot plant, and its operation in an underground environment. This project also included a ∼250 t (100 m3) fragmented rock reactor hydraulically connected to the pilot plant. The pilot plant consisted of several tanks and pumps, a fluidised bed ferric iron generating bioreactor containing immobilised acidophilic iron oxidation biomass, and all the required instrumentation and utilities. Before the bioleaching 16 phase could start, the rock reactor had to be flushed continuously firstly with water to remove chloride salts that are corrosive and also harmful for the bacteria used in the bioreactor, and secondly, with sulfuric acid solution to react with the carbonates present in the ore matrix. This paper summarizes the design, construction, commissioning, and operation of the pilot plant.