U of T Engineering researchers growing microorganisms to recover nickel and clean up tailings ponds

Tailings pond
A new research partnership between U of T Engineering and several companies in the mining sector could leverage the action of microorganisms to recover nickel from tailings ponds like this one in Ontario. (Photo: Patrick Diep)

U of T Engineering researchers — in collaboration with a group of mining firms— are leveraging the power of acid-loving bacteria to design new processes for recovering nickel, a critical mineral with growing demand around the world.

Partners on the project include Vale, Glencore, Metso-Outotec, BacTech, MIRARCO and Yakum Consulting. The insights gained could enable these companies to reduce their environmental footprint while at the same time gaining access to new sources of nickel, which is used in everything from stainless steel to next-generation batteries for electric vehicles.

The project is supported by $2 million in funding through Ontario Genomics from Genome Canada. The industrial partners will also provide approximately $2 million in funding and in-kind contributions.

“Tailings from nickel mining operations have been an environmental challenge for a very long time,” says Professor Radhakrishnan Mahadevan (ChemE), who is leading the new partnership.

Read the full U of T Engineering News story.