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Research and teaching centre
environmental geosciences
Research and teaching centre
environmental geosciences


In a context of increasing pressure on strategic metal resources, this project proposes to develop innovative extraction processes for critical metals, based on biological mechanisms, in order to recover industrial and mining residues.

The production of critical metals such as rare earths (REE) from secondary sources is essential to sustain the development of technologies that depend on them, particularly those related to the ecological transition. Life has always been a strong source of inspiration for developing processes with reduced environmental costs.

As regards RTs, the evidence of their use by living organisms is fairly recent. Understanding the mechanisms involved opens up promising new prospects, particularly for the development of extraction processes for these metals.

In this context, this project aims to :
1. identify biological molecules involved in the transfer of RTs to living organisms and
2. to test their TR complexation potential by selective leaching tests of mine or industrial tailings.

Two biological models will be studied:
1. Pseudomonas putidaa bacterium that selectively uses light TRs as an enzymatic cofactor
2. Dicranopteris dichotoma and Phytollaca americana, TR hyper-accumulating plants. In a second step, the identified molecules will be used for selective leaching tests of TRs in 3 industrial and mining residues from the Mediterranean basin: bauxite residues stored in Bouc-Bel-Air and 2 mining residues from coal extraction and phosphate processing in Morocco.

This project is part of a federative approach to existing initiatives in order to create an interdisciplinary consortium with partners in the South to respond to a major challenge of the 21st century.ème century, that of the sustainable management of the metal resource, a resource that is essential to meet the needs of the ecological transition.

2021-2023: BioExtract

Biomimicry for the Extraction of Rare Earths from Secondary Sources

Financing: ITEM Institute

Head of CEREGE :
Blanche Collin


  • IMBE, VEM Team - Vulnerability of Ecosystems at the Microbial Level, Marseille
  • CEA, CNRS, BIAM, IPM team, Protein-Metal Interactions, St-Paul-lez-Durance
  • LIEC, University of Lorraine, Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy 
  • AMSE, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille


Foreign collaborators :

  • Mohammed V University of Rabat, Faculty of Sciences, Rabat, Morocco
  • Caddi Ayyad University, Marrakech, Morocco
  • École des mines de Rabat, Rabat, Morocco