Geoactive fungi such as Aspergillus niger play a significant role in bioweathering processes and element cycling. These organisms are able to secrete a range of organic acids, such as oxalic acid, into their microenvironment. This enables them to mediate mineral dissolution, leading to metal solubilization and precipitation in the form of secondary biominerals. In this investigation, such biotransformation processes were explored as a means of cobalt bioprocessing, an E-tech element identified as being of key strategic importance, in addition to other mineralogically related metals. A range of Co-bearing mineral phases were investigated, including a Co-bearing lithiophorite [(Al,Li)MnO2(OH)2] and erythrite (Co3(AsO4)2·8H2O), in addition to seafloor ferromanganese nodules. Bioleaching and bioprecipitation studies were carried out to investigate the ability of A. nigerto leach cobalt and related metals from Co-bearing minerals, and to precipitate them in biomineral form as a means of cobalt biorecovery. The objective of the work is to investigate the natural biotransformation of cobalt-bearing minerals, to investigate the factors that influence cobalt bioprocessing and to optimise the maximal yield of cobalt biominerals.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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