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1. (WO1998051828) SULFIDE MINERAL CONCENTRATE BIOLEACHING
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Claims

L A process for extraction of metals from sulfide mineral concentrates or for the production of sulfuric acid from sulfur which comprises
(a) binding said concentrates or sulfur to high areal density packing to obtain high pulp densities and a high fraction of open volume for flow of process solutions; and
(b) leaching said metals or said sulfur.

2. The process, according to claim 1 , wherein the high areal density packing is a sphere that is comprised of a ring and pin arrangement.

3. The process, according to claim 2, where the packing is made from polyethylene or any recyclable material.

4. The process, according to claim 1 , wherein graphite or graphite and a nutrient are blended with the sulfide mineral concentrates prior to being bonded to the packing.

5. The process, according to claim 1, wherein the leach solution is amended with ferric sulfate.

6. The process, according to claim 1, wherein the binding agent is a polymer.

7. The process, according to claim 6, wherein the polymer is polyethylmethacrylate.

8. The process, according to claim 1, wherein said packing is coated with a biological nutrient and catalyst to support the health and growth of acidophilic microbes.

9. The process, according to claim 8, wherein said acidophilic microbe is selected from the group consisting of Thiobacillus thiooxidans, Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, and fungi.

10. A biological reactor for enhanced concentrate leaching which comprises a column of stacked bioreactor cells comprising:
(a) a cell wherein oxidizing bacteria are provided a substrate that is coated on "BIOBALLS" which supports and sustains their activity;
(b) a leaching cell where concentrate-loaded "BIOBALLS" are leached;
(c) a design of stacked cells which provides maximum natural air flow through the segmented cells; and
(d) a double lined leach cell which assures maximum air flow past the entire stack of "BIOBALLS" in the cell.

11. A countercurrent vat leaching system wherein the differential density of loaded versus leached "BIOBALLS" allows loaded balls injected into the bottom of the vat to slowly rise as the concentrate load is leached away.