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Extremophiles in Mineral Sulphide Heaps: Some Bacterial Responses to Variable Temperature, Acidity and Solution Composition

Extremophiles in Mineral Sulphide Heaps: Some Bacterial Responses to Variable Temperature, Acidity and Solution Composition

Microorganisms 3(3): 364-390

In heap bioleaching, acidophilic extremophiles contribute to enhanced metal extraction from mineral sulphides through the oxidation of Fe(II) and/or reduced inorganic sulphur compounds (RISC), such as elemental sulphur or mineral sulphides, or the degradation of organic compounds derived from the ore, biota or reagents used during mineral processing. The impacts of variable solution acidity and composition, as well as temperature on the three microbiological functions have been examined for up to four bacterial species found in mineral sulphide heaps. The results indicate that bacteria adapt to sufficiently high metal concentrations (Cu, Ni, Co, Zn, As) to allow them to function in mineral sulphide heaps and, by engaging alternative metabolic pathways, to extend the solution pH range over which growth is sustained. Fluctuating temperatures during start up in sulphide heaps pose the greatest threat to efficient bacterial colonisation. The large masses of ores in bioleaching heaps mean that high temperatures arising from sulphide oxidation are hard to control initially, when the sulphide content of the ore is greatest. During that period, mesophilic and moderately thermophilic bacteria are markedly reduced in both numbers and activity.

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Accession: 057851138

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 27682094

DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms3030364

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