A reliable and substantial supply of metals is of crucial importance for any industrialized country. This dependency applies also to “strategic elements” which are needed for the production of electric and electronic devices, fiber optics, laser technology and many other high-technology products. While, on the one hand, the demand for some strategic elements has been increasing and will continue to increase due to strong economic growth in various parts of the world, realization of a sufficient supply, on the other hand, may be hampered by a need to win ores at greater depths, ores with lower metal concentrations, and more complex ores. In addition, mining activities have to be as sustainable as possible and thus high environmental standards have to be met and pollution of water, soil or air and energy consumption resulting from mining activities have to be minimized.
To meet these global and national challenges, hydrometallurgical and especially biohydrometallurgical approaches to metal winning will have to play an important role. Therefore, TU Bergakademie Freiberg (TUBAF) with funding by the Dr.-Erich Krüger foundation established the Biohydrometallurgical Center for Strategic Elements (“BHMZ”) as a Krüger Research School to forward interdisciplinary research along the whole (bio-)hydrometallurgical process chain. This comprises bringing the respective metal from the respective source material (deposits, tailings/heaps, recycling material) into aqueous solution and various approaches to obtain pure metal or metal-containing materials of interest from the solution.
Ph. D students funded by the Krüger Research School will focus their research on indium and germanium, two elements of strategic importance, both of which have been detected in the 19ᵗʰ century by scientists of TU Bergakademie. However, the experiences gained in the Krüger Research School with indium and germanium and the equipment available in additional projects will also be applied to other metals of interest.
To forward the interdisciplinary research, courses will be offered to members of BHMZ for training in disciplines other than the respective home discipline. In addition, Ph.D. students have access to soft-skill courses, courses in business administration etc. offered by the Centre of Advanced Study and Research (GraFA).
Overall, the BHMZ aims at forwarding research into environmentally acceptable mining of strategic metals and thereby improving sustainable economic development.
The core of the Krüger Research School is formed by 13 professorships of TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the corresponding projects: