Cemvita Biofoundry in Denver focuses on sustainable mining

Biotech start up Cemvita Factory aims to reimagine mining for the net-zero economy

Cemvita Factory has opened in Denver with a team of scientists, engineers and innovators that will focus on the development of sustainable mining using microbial solutions.

The biotech start up aims to reimagine heavy industries for the net-zero economy through sustainable extraction of natural resources, low-carbon production of chemicals, and closed-loop renewal of waste as feedstock.

According to McKinsey, the mining sector is responsible for 4 to 7% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally while the demand for energy transition metals is forecasted to increase by nearly 500% by 2050. Over 3bn tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, required for achieving a below 2°C future. To address the metals needs of clean energy technologies the demand for copper is set to increase by 40%, nickel and cobalt by 60-70%, and lithium by almost 90% over the next two decades.

This has presented a very challenging scenario to the mining industry to ramp up production while lowering their carbon and environmental footprint, and Cemvita believes biomining is a key part of the solution.

"The use of microbes in mining is not new – 15% of the world's copper is bioleached – and these processes have been proven at scale over the last 40 years. However, recent biotech developments that have revolutionised pharma, agriculture and food are still nascent in the mining industry. We partner with industrial companies to apply biotechnology, synthetic biology, and interdisciplinary thinking to lower the footprint of mining and provide the metals needed for our renewable energy future," said Marny Reakes, VP of Mining Biotech at Cemvita.

Cemvita's biomining team works with companies to optimise existing bioprocesses and develop new methods in mineral processing to lower the energy and carbon intensity of the mining industry. Biotechnology can be applied across the entire mining supply chain including mining and mineral pre-processing, in-situ treatment, beneficiation, leaching remediation, and recycling.

"What is really amazing is that biomining processes are naturally occurring. We are just learning from natural biocatalysts and optimising the process further to accelerate the reactions of interest and make the effort economically viable," said Tara Karimi, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer of Cemvita Factory.

In 2019, Cemvita attracted seed-round investment from BHP Ventures and Series A investment from energy transition investors including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Sumitomo Corporation of America's. Since then, Cemvita has expanded its mining customer portfolio and with the added resources from the Series-A fundraise, plans to further establish its position as the leading innovator for biotechnology solutions for mining. 

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