Microorganisms (or "Hungry Miners" as we call them) that are currently used in commercial bioleaching operations are  so far ubiquitous in nature. Wherever a suitable ore is exposed to the hungry miner and water is present, the naturally occurring microorganisms (MOs) will be found exploting the resource. 

The first isolated and best-studied iron and/or sulfur-oxidizing bacterium is Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, formerly known as Thiobacillus ferrooxidans. The perceived importance of At. ferrooxidans in bioleaching environments was largely a consequence of the relative ease of its enrichment and isolation, and its rapid growth in acidic iron(II) media, by which it out-competed other members of its microbial community (Watling, H. 2016).  The discovery and description of this miner prompted a rapid increase in microbiological studies related to the oxidation of sulfide minerals.  

The variety  of microbes  identified  as being capable of  growth in  situations  that  simulate biomining  commercial processes is rapidly
growing. This is partly because of an increase in the number of environments  being screened for such organisms, partly because of an
increase  in the variety of minerals  being tested, and most of all because of new techniques available to screen for the presence of any organisms.  Miners are non-pathogenic and there have been no reports of illness due to these microbes.

HOWEVER  -  the growth of above given miners is inhibited or prevented in the presence of organic matter. Therefore the efficiency of bioleaching an ore where metals are trapped in organic complexes is not maximum.  The microorganisms also only function in specific temperature ranges, require iron or reduced sulphur as an energy source and in most cases grow optimally at pH < 2.5.  

Luckily, the team of Hungry Miners developed in BiotaTec operate best at neutral pH and do excellent work in breaking up organic complexes (porphyrin rings) while simultaneously producing methane gas and freeing metals into water solution.

Peer-reviewed publication about this amazing team is being prepared - stay tuned:-)!