New green mining reagents can boost critical mineral recovery and lower carbon intensity
As the world faces the daunting task of balancing the Energy Trilemma—providing secure, sustainable, and affordable energy for a rapidly expanding global population—the mining industry finds itself at a critical juncture. Despite its long-held reputation for a heavy carbon footprint, our industry is experiencing increased pressure to adapt to the energy transition and reduce carbon intensity.
Recent shifts towards cleaner energy sources have sparked a renewed focus on mining’s impact on the environment and the need for more sustainable solutions. In response, mining companies are upping their efforts to find new technologies and ‘greener’ processes without disrupting the world’s supply of minerals.
CERAWeek Focus on the Energy Trilemma in Mining
This growing interest in optimizing mining operations was evident at this year’s CERAWeek, as it included numerous sessions focused on topics like Electrifying Mining Operations, Assuring Minerals for the Energy Transition, and Decarbonizing Supply Chains for Domestic Critical Metals.
Speakers included Dr. Gabi Knesel, Locus’ VP of mining & minerals processing, who presented on how biosurfactants can be used to improve recovery and selectivity in mining. She joined other mining and minerals leaders in sharing valuable insights and strategies geared towards balancing the Energy Trilemma.
What is Energy Trilemma?
The Energy Trilemma, a concept created by World Energy Council, refers to balancing three key three pillars:
- Energy security: providing adequate energy that is accessible and reliable
- Sustainability: transitioning to cleaner, low-carbon energy solutions
- Affordability: using cost-effective and energy-efficient means of energy
For mining, the Energy Trilemma is particularly challenging due to the industry’s critical role in the energy transition. Worldwide demand for critical minerals and transition metals is at an all-time high.
Every year, more minerals are required to build clean-energy technologies—including new batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and electric motors—that fuel our net-zero journey.
Unfortunately, mineral demand is now outpacing supply. The mining industry is currently under tremendous pressure from governments, investors and society to reduce its carbon footprint while meeting this growing demand. Mining companies must maximize mineral extraction, minimize emissions and increase efficiency…all without compromising quality and profitability.
Although seemingly daunting, this presents a unique opportunity for the mining industry to lead the charge towards a more sustainable future. This is where biosurfactants can help.
Addressing the Energy Trilemma with Biosurfactant Mining Reagents
Locus Mining has developed biosurfactant mining reagents that boost extraction and selectivity, even in previously uneconomical low-grade ores. The novel additives help mining companies unlock and recover vast amounts of stranded critical minerals while advancing the Energy Trilemma’s three pillars.
1.) Energy Security: Better Ore Recovery
On the goal of energy security, mining companies need to boost their recovery of essential metals—particularly copper, gold, and electrification metals like lithium, nickel, and cobalt. But the volumes of readily accessible ores for these high-demand resources are on a rapid decline, forcing companies to look at extracting more ore from tailings and slags.
Locus biosurfactant reagents enhance extraction processes, including leaching and flotation, for improved ore recovery and selectivity. The additives boost the process for ore recovery by:
- floating coarser particles—reducing the amount of crushing and grinding needed
- eliminating the hard passivation layer that prevents contact between the leaching solution and ore surface
- using their small micelle size to carry acid treatments into the smallest pore spaces while also lowering the interfacial tension for better metal mobility
The result—improved reach and recovery of copper and other hard-to-reach minerals, with less energy-intensive grinding. In several independent tests, our biosurfactants helped increase insoluble copper extraction by 90%.
2.) Affordability: Multifunctional Biosurfactant Additives
Locus biosurfactant mining reagents also advance the affordability goal. The multifunctional biosurfactant additives lower operating costs by extracting more valuable ore at a fraction of the dosage of other treatments.
The efficiency gains realized allow for more reliable and repeatable processes for mining and ore extraction, while lowering energy and water costs.
Biosurfactants also help decrease the need for new mines and licenses by effectively extracting more minerals from low-grade tailings and slags (traditionally just disposed of as waste).
3.) Sustainability: Decarbonization and Energy Savings
On the sustainability front, biosurfactant reagents help put mining operations on a clear pathway to net zero by reducing their carbon footprints.
The sustainability benefits start at production. Locus biosurfactants are produced using renewable agricultural raw materials and a high-efficiency, carbon-neutral fermentation process. The result is non-toxic, biodegradable additives that are safer for miners and the planet.
Biosurfactants also enable the use of hydrometallurgy, which requires less power, transportation, and water than pyrometallurgy techniques. This translates to significant reductions in emissions generated when processing ores, estimated at:
40% less carbon dioxide
70% less sulfur oxide
70% less nitrogen oxide
Using the biosurfactant reagents requires less grinding — reducing energy requirements. The additives can also both reduce the amount of tailings and recover ore from current tailings — minimizing the amount of mining waste.
Mining with the Energy Trilemma in Mind
It’s clear that the Energy Trilemma isn’t merely a buzzworthy theme to be used at conferences – it is a reality the world faces more each day. The pressure to deliver secure, sustainable, and affordable energy is only increasing, and the mining industry plays an important role in meeting this challenge.
Locus Mining’s team of experts understands that challenge. That’s why they’re pioneering the next generation of mining reagents that help companies achieve sustainability goals faster, with higher profitability. The advancement of new biosurfactant technologies will help mining companies extract more of the precious minerals and metals that the clean-energy transition demands.
Ready to learn more?
Contact us to find out how Locus biosurfactant additives can boost profitability and sustainability of your mining operations.