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Hydrometallurgy is the technology where metals are extracted into an aqueous solution and subsequently recovered by a variety of methods. Hydrometallurgy is mainly based on the science of inorganic and physical chemistry.

Metal bearing materialsLeaching agentsMetal rich solutionRecovered metalsPretreatmentNatural environments for metal immobilisationMiningDeposition of by-products of low metal valueNatural leaching environmentsEngineered leaching environments for metal extractionEngineered environments for water treatment, impurity removal and metal recoveryOreAcid mine drainageRock, soil, mineral, sediment, slamNeutralised & purified waterNeutralised & purified waterNeutralised & purified waterNeutralised & purified waterMetal-containing productsMetal-containing productsMetal-containing productsMetal-containing productsMaterial engineeringCorrosion and recyclingMetal leachingMetal immobilizationMetal extractionMetal extractionMetal extractionOverburdenOverburden
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Many hydrometallurgical unit processes involve metal transformations between a solid and liquid phase as well as changes of oxidation state within the liquid phase.

The hydrometallurgical unit processes are generally abiotic but under some circumstances microbes are used to enhance the chemical processes. Biohydrometallurgy is a subfield within hydrometallurgy which includes aspects of microbes and biotechnology.

Even though hydrometallurgy strictly defined only deals with applications of economical interest, research and knowledge about natural geochemical processes involving metals probably relate to a better comprehension of hydrometallurgy. Natural processes like metal transformations may be interesting in their own right but also in order to better understand environmental impacts by mining activities and to invent new applications of economical interest.

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