Rio Tinto has filed a patent for a method involving microbial-assisted heap leaching of copper-containing sulfidic ores and waste materials. The process includes controlling sulfate concentration in the leach liquor and forming agglomerates of feed materials. The method aims to efficiently recover copper while managing sulfate levels. GlobalData’s report on Rio Tinto gives a 360-degree view of the company including its patenting strategy. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s company profile on Rio Tinto, Zinc recovery was a key innovation area identified from patents. Rio Tinto's grant share as of January 2024 was 55%. Grant share is based on the ratio of number of grants to total number of patents.

Microbial-assisted heap leaching of copper-containing sulfidic ores

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Credit: Rio Tinto

A patent application (Publication Number: US20240035113A1) outlines a method for microbial-assisted heap leaching of base metal-containing sulfidic ores or waste materials. The process involves supplying an acidic leach liquor containing sulfate to a heap of fragments or agglomerates of base metal-containing materials, allowing the leach liquor to flow through the heap to extract base metals, collecting the leach liquor, and recovering the base metals. The method includes controlling the sulfate concentration in the leach liquor to prevent it from exceeding a specified threshold, with additional steps for monitoring and adjusting the sulfate concentration as needed. The patent also details the formation of agglomerates for heap leaching, including the addition of feed materials at specific points in an agglomeration unit to optimize the process.

Furthermore, the patent describes a microbial-assisted heap leaching operation for base metal-containing sulfidic ores or waste materials, involving a heap of fragments or agglomerates with microbes, an acidic leach liquor supply system, and a collection system for pregnant leach liquor. The system is designed to control the sulfate concentration in the leach liquor to ensure optimal leaching conditions. Specific configurations for copper-containing materials are also outlined, including the use of catalysts, acids, activation agents, and complexing additives to enhance the leaching process. Additionally, a detailed description of a heap structure for microbial-assisted heap leaching is provided, including layers of granular material, base metal-containing materials, irrigation, collection, aeration systems, and a control system to maintain sulfate concentration levels.

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GlobalData Patent Analytics tracks bibliographic data, legal events data, point in time patent ownerships, and backward and forward citations from global patenting offices. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies