Biotechnologies for Critical Raw Material Recovery from Primary and Secondary Sources: R&D Priorities and Future Perspectives
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Europe is confronted with an increasing supply risk of critical raw materials. These can be defined as materials of which the risks of supply shortage and their impacts on the economy are higher compared to most of other raw materials. Within the framework of the EU Innovation Partnership on raw materials Initiative, a list of 14 critical materials was defined, including some bulk metals, industrial minerals, the platinum group metals and rare earth elements. To tackle the supply risk challenge, innovation is required with respect to sustainable primary mining, substitution of critical metals, and urban mining. In these three categories, biometallurgy can play a crucial role. Indeed, microbe-metal interactions have been successfully applied on full scale to win materials from primary sources, but are not sufficiently explored for metal recovery or recycling. On the one hand, this article gives an overview of the microbial strategies that are currently applied on full scale for biomining; on the other hand it identifies technologies, currently developed in the laboratory, which have a perspective for large scale metal recovery and the needs and challenges on which bio-metallurgical research should focus to achieve this ambitious goal.