BioHeap is a patented bacterial leaching technology wholly owned by Western Areas that has been in development for over a decade, and is protected by an extensive international patent and trademark suite.
Prior to Western Areas takeover of the BioHeap business in 2009, Pacific Ore (Australia) Pty Ltd (now BioHeap Ltd) was an industry leader in bacterial heap leaching and bacterial culture development. In addition to the extensive patent portfolio, covering various aspects of the technology, BioHeap has real world experience with the design, construction and implementation of bioleaching projects.
BioHeap utilises special bacterial cultures to leach or liberate valuable metals from sulphide ores. The leaching can occur in either tanks or on large heaps and is applicable mainly to low grade ores. The BioHeap process has low operating and capital costs and is compatible with most downstream processing options, including solvent extraction/electrowinning, hydroxide precipitation, sulphide precipitation, cementation, Carbon in Leach/Carbon in Pulp and ion exchange.
The technology is ready for commercial application having been successfully demonstrated in the harsh summer of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, where day time temperatures regularly exceed 40°C and in the sub-arctic conditions of an Inner Mongolian winter where temperatures fell below -30°C.
Nickel, copper, cobalt, zinc and refractory gold ores are all suited to BioHeap processing. Because the robust cultures that have been developed by BioHeap operate over a wide temperature range (15°C to 95°C), the technology can be applied in a wide range of climates.
In line with Western Areas environmental and sustainability policies, BioHeap has a low environmental impact, and is well suited to remote locations. BioHeap is simple to operate and produces high value products.