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Environment & Science

Microscopic Miners: Grant Awarded To Study Using Bacteria To Mine Minerals

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Montana State University
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Montana State University Associate Professor Dr. Eric Boyd holds up pyrite while talking about the project to research biomining during the announcement of MSU Bozeman's grant award on June 23, 2021.

The federal government is awarding Montana State University a grant to research the science of using bacteria to mine minerals.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday announced a grant of nearly $3.4 million for Montana State University Bozeman to investigate the use of enzymes that enable bacteria to mine minerals like iron or nickel from pyrite, also called fool’s gold.

Montana State University Associate Professor Dr. Eric Boyd is leading the project.

He says, years in the future, biomining could help the United States produce fuel and extract minerals domestically.

“Understanding that mechanism, once we do understand it, we can then engineer that process into other platforms to improve production,” Boyd says.

The award is part of a $22-million Department of Energy grant program for rural and underfunded energy research projects across the United States.

Other funding recipients include Boise State University for quantum computing, University of Rhode Island for protecting offshore wind turbines and University of South Alabama for plastic recycling.