Mining Microbiology:Bioleaching by Microorganisms

The term bioleaching refers to the conversion of an insoluble metal (generally a metal sulfide, e.g., CuS, NiS, ZnS) into a soluble form (usually the metal sulfate, e.g., CuSO4,NiSO4, ZnSO4). When this happens, the metal is extracted into water; this process is called bioleaching. As these processes are oxidations, this process may also be termed bio-oxidation. However, the term bio-oxidation is usually used to refer to processes in which the recovery of a metal is enhanced by microbial decomposition of the mineral, but the metal being recovered is not solubilized.

Bioleaching is the extraction of metals from their ores through the use of living organisms. This is much cleaner than the traditional heap leaching using cyanide.Bioleaching is one of several applications within biohydrometallurgy and several methods are used to recover copper, zinc, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, molybdenum, gold, silver, and cobalt. Bioleaching can involve numerous ferrous iron and sulfur oxidizing bacteria, including Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans (formerly known as Thiobacillus ferrooxidans) and Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans (formerly known as Thiobacillus thiooxidans).

  • Bioleaching
  • Commercial Leaching Methods
  • Irrigation-type processes
  • Stirred tank processes
  • Microbiology of the Leaching Process
  • Leaching of Some Metal Sulfides
  • Environmental Conditions Affecting Bacterial Leaching

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