The increasing demand for rare earth elements (REE) is fuelled by their importance in a green energy future, with the demand for dysprosium predicted to increase by 5 % annually by 2026. Bioleaching approaches are being investigated for the recovery of REE and other precious metals from waste materials, however even 100 % recovery will not be able to meet increasing demand. Therefore, extraction from primary sources will be required. REE do not form high concentration ores, so their extraction can require processing large volumes of material, however REE are frequently associated with other raw materials and REE are sold as by-products of iron mining from Chinese deposits. Bioleaching offers the potential to produce valuable by-products from existing mining operations or to remediate historical mine waste. The diverse nature of REE-bearing minerals means that a variety of established and emerging bioleaching approaches could be applied: organic acid leaching, oxidative leaching of sulphidic ores, and reductive leaching of oxidised ores. We have applied these processes to three bauxites, demonstrating varied responses to bioleaching with each bauxite. The combination of low concentration ores and varied sources provide a challenge to recovery: however, it is one that microbes could take on.

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