Eva María Laín, a doctoral student in Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge, inadvertently embarked on a groundbreaking journey in the mining industry. While playing alchemist in her spare time at the university laboratory, she devised a method that the mining industry had been seeking for 80 years: extracting pure metal from primary minerals effectively, sustainably, and profitably, using a novel leaching (dissolution) technique.

Unveiling E-Lix: A Game-Changing Discovery

Laín’s breakthrough method, dubbed E-Lix (short for electroleaching), diverged from conventional approaches by replacing force and aggressive conditions with electricity and finesse. Although commercial leaching processes existed for secondary minerals (those more oxidized and exposed to air), which accounted for 20% of global reserves, the remaining 80% of primary minerals posed extraction challenges—until now.

Laín’s innovation crystallized into Lain Tech, a company aimed at revolutionizing mineral extraction. Despite her studies having no connection to mining, Laín’s diverse interests and experimental spirit led her to explore this uncharted territory.

From Solo Endeavor to Industrial Success

Undeterred by the lack of funding and unwilling to divulge her project’s details prematurely, Laín pursued her venture independently. Armed with determination and resourcefulness, she approached the Riotinto mines and pitched her idea to the mining giant Atalaya Mining, eventually securing their support.

With her own savings and resourcefulness—scouring for recycled parts and DIY solutions—Laín constructed a miniature model of her technology, a process that took two additional years and €14,000. Upon demonstrating the viability of her technology through a successful pilot plant, Atalaya Mining fully embraced the project, providing €2 million to establish the company and hire the initial workforce.

Scaling Up: Transforming the Mining Landscape

Following the triumph of the pilot plant, Atalaya Mining further invested €20 million, enabling the construction of the first operational plant. Laín’s E-Lix technology promises not only cost savings throughout the production process but also the viability of hundreds of previously unprofitable deposits.

Unlike traditional methods that yield copper concentrates containing 25% copper, Laín’s process produces pure copper, eliminating the need for long-distance shipping to Asian smelters. Additionally, her technology achieves over 98% copper recovery (compared to smelters’ 70%) and recovers all accompanying zinc, a byproduct retained by smelters.

Shaping the Future of Mining

Laín Tech’s success is evident, with a €5 million turnover in 2023. Looking ahead, Laín contemplates expansion, considering partnerships with mining companies to bring her technology to a global scale. With vast untapped reserves awaiting exploitation, the potential of E-Lix is boundless.

In conclusion, Eva María Laín’s journey from the university laboratory to the forefront of the mining industry exemplifies the transformative power of innovation and determination. Through E-Lix technology, she not only revolutionizes mineral extraction but also paves the way for sustainable and profitable mining practices worldwide.