BHP backs US biotech for climate-friendly mine rehab solution

BMA operations. Image: BHP.

BHP has taken a stake in United States biotech Cemvita Factory, a start-up company that is developing bio-engineered pathways that support carbon dioxide sequestration and utilisation.

The Houston-based Cemvita is in the process of developing a portfolio of CO2 conversion microorganisms, including a platform that mimics photosynthesis and other natural processes.

BHP chief geoscientist Laura Tyler said the company was interested in the potential for biomimetic technology to enhance remediation of mine-impacted soils and water.

“Biomimetics have the potential to convert CO2 into useful downstream products such as chemicals and polymers, and it also holds promise for the remediation of mine sites,” Tyler said.

“This strategic investment fits well with BHP’s vision of the future: reducing operational greenhouse gas emissions, reducing environmental impact and the development of low-emissions technology, including increased application of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology.”

The technology is based on established methods of synthetic biology to improve the metabolic capacity of environmental-friendly photosynthetic microorganisms for CO2 utilisation.

These microorganisms may also be used for different purposes, including the treatment of heavy metal or acidic contamination, utilising and sequestering carbon dioxide in the process.

BHP stated that it hoped the technology would enable the discovery of new low cost, high volume treatment alternatives, removing traditional treatment overheads, transportation cost, and the continuous management of legacy sites.

The announcement follows BHP’s $US6 million equity investment in Carbon Engineering, a Canadian-based company leading the development of direct air capture, earlier this year.

Carbon Engineering’s technology has the potential to deliver large-scale negative emissions by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Tyler said BHP was committed to accelerating the global response to climate change by investing in emerging technologies that had the potential to lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said, if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, technologies that capture and remove CO2 will be required,” Tyler said.

“Cemvita Factory’s technology has the potential to contribute to how we reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.”

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