Effectiveness of different pure and mixed cultures of three moderately thermophilic, extremely acidophilic bacterial strains (Acidimicrobium ferrooxidans ICP, Sulfobacillus sibiricus N1, Acidithiobacillus caldus KU) were investigated for biooxidation of highly refractory polymetallic gold ore concentrates. Despite of its complex mineralogy and the presence of a mixture of potentially inhibitory metals and metalloids, the concentrate was readily dissolved in defined mixed cultures including both iron and sulfur oxidizers, releasing as much as 80% of soluble Fe and 61% of soluble As. Factors to affect microbial mineral dissolution efficiencies (i.e. microbial As(III) oxidation ability, formation of secondary mineral precipitation (e.g. jarosite, elemental sulfur, scorodite, anglesite), and microbial population dynamics during biooxidation) were studied, based on which roles of individual microbes and their synergistic interactions during biooxidation were discussed. Applying the biooxidation pretreatment using the most efficient mixed cultures containing all three strains significantly improved the recovery of both Au (from 1.1% to 86%) and Ag (from 3.2% to 87%). Finally, this study provides one of the very few available comparisons of the effectiveness of different pretreatment techniques for refractory gold ore concentrates: Compared with other abiotic pretreatment approaches (roasting, pressure oxidation, and alkali dissolution), biooxidation was shown to be one of the most effective options in terms of the recovery of Au and Ag.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Environmental Science(all)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)