Bacteria could unlock billions in battery metals.
BacTech Environmental CEO Ross Orr remembers years ago when the company tested its technology—which uses bacteria to “eat” around metals that would otherwise be hard to extract—in Sudbury, Ont. The century’s worth of mining waste discarded in the area includes low-grade nickel and cobalt, mixed in with sulphides so “nasty” they need to be stored underwater lest they combust.
The little bacteria did their jobs, said the leader of the Toronto-headquartered firm, whose slogan is “Our bugs eat rocks.” But its ability to separate the waste into useful products, like inputs for cement, doesn’t compare to the potential economic upside of using the technology to produce minerals critical to the production of EVs.
“At the time, there was no value for the other products,” Orr told The Logic in an interview. “We think now there is.”
The reasons are twofold.