Unique acidic hypersaline lakes can be found scattered around the Yilgarn craton of Western Australia. These poly-extreme ecosystems are among the most biologically challenging waters on Earth, due to often extreme UV radiation doses, and high concentrations of salts, iron, sulfur, and heavy metals.

Hostile environments are rare ecological niches, that may harbour microorganisms with unique characteristics, but the Western Australian acidic hypersaline lakes are still relatively understudied.

Understanding these microbiota is important to predict the impact of future climate change, better reconstruct the origin and early evolution of life on Earth, and to discover novel taxa with potential biotechnological applications.

And one of these applications is biomining….

“Biomining is the biotechnology that uses microorganisms to recover metals,
in particular copper and gold, from ores and concentrates”

Today only a relatively small number of halophilic and/or acidophilic microbes, have been successfully isolated from rare and extreme environments like these. Genomic studies of such environments can advance our understanding of the molecular evolution and functioning of dual acid-and-saline tolerance.

For the resource industry and broader community, however,
the isolation and characterization of novel halophilic and/or acidophilic biomining candidates,
can have major economic-, social-, and environmental- benefits.

Econumerics is collaborating with Curtin University of Technology (Prof Eizabeth Watkin) in a metagenomic study, aimed at identifying and isolating iron- and sulfur- oxidising saline-tolerant acidophilic microorganisms, from natural lakes in the Yilgarn craton.