PT - W: Biotools for a sustainable supply of tungsten from biodetection to bioleaching and biorecovery


The aim of the work is to develop new ecoinnovative biostrategies to detect and extract tungsten, a critical mineral resource, from tailings (secondary geological deposits), low grade ores and small mines. In order to fulfill this objective, the collection of bacteria of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra, which includes organisms isolated from deepsea hydrothermal vents (FCT HotMetal), will be screened to increase the number of  tungsten highly resistant organisms already in study in our lab (see confidential information). With this objective, new W resistant microorganism will be also isolated from tailings and low grade ores sampled at selected mines under industrial partner control (EDM). These new potential biotools will be tested in vitro for their ability to leach and to uptake tungsten. Those with better uptake will be modified to overexpress metal binding peptides or proteins in order to improve their ability to remove W. The potential use of these biotools in biomining requires their control in the environment that will be achieved by immobilization of the modified organisms in the last task. The selected microorganisms will be used to design biosensors for tungsten. In order to do it, their genetic determinants and operon organization involved in W resistance will be disclosed. After detecting the sensing domains, the objective is to get very specific and sensitive tools able to monitor the bioleaching and biomineralization processes and evaluate the metal recovery in the ultimate tasks of the project. To optimize the conditions for bioleaching, a microbial consortium will be developed, using the microorganisms selected and modified in the previous tasks, in batch systems and by scaling up to laboratory bioleaching reactor scale. This objective will be achieved using column setups with low grade W ores and W mine tailings as W source, delivered by the industrial partner.



Circular economy, Mineral Resources and Bio-Resources, Resources and Raw Materials
Start Date:
End Date:

Coordinator/Local PI


Proponent Institution

Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal


Universidade de Coimbra
EDM-Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro, SA
CERENA / Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Funding Programme

FCT/ PTDC/AAG-TEC/3839/2014

Total Funding
198 328,00 €
CERENA Funding
53 544,00 €

Funding Entities