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The low potential bioleaching of chalcopyrite with ferroplasma JTC3

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dc.contributor.advisor Prof. I.A. Dubery en
dc.contributor.author Rautenbach, George Frederick
dc.date.accessioned 2009-04-28T07:24:08Z
dc.date.available 2009-04-28T07:24:08Z
dc.date.issued 2009-04-28T07:24:08Z
dc.date.submitted 2007-06
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/2441
dc.description M.Sc. en
dc.description.abstract The leaching of chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) concentrate in a ferrous iron promoted aerobic/anaerobic controlled low potential sulphate system was investigated by using the duel metabolic (aerobic ferrous iron oxidation and anaerobic ferric iron reduction) capabilities of Ferroplasma JTC 3. The experimental work conducted in this study was divided in three sections. The first section focussed on the identification and phylogenetic classification of Ferroplasma JTC 3, first identified amongst a mixed microbial population in a 55 oC pyrite concentrate-fed bioreactor operated at Johannesburg Technology Centre (BHP Billiton, JTC). Based on the 16S rDNA sequence and the phylogenetic analysis, Ferroplasma JTC 3 represents a new species member under the genus of Ferroplasma. The optimal growth temperature of Ferroplasma JTC 3 was determined at approximately 53 oC (moderate thermophile). The second section of this study focussed on the isolation, basic metabolism and growth conditions of Ferroplasma JTC 3, specifically directed towards the chalcopyrite leaching related experimental work. An important aspect of this study was to compare low potential chalcopyrite leaching (potential below 400 mV vs. Ag/AgCl) against high potential chalcopyrite bioleaching (potential above 600 mV vs. Ag/AgCl) in terms of the rate of copper extraction. Microbial growth and the rate of ferrous iron oxidation are essential in order to maintain a high potential during an extended leach period, which was typically the case in the high potential chalcopyrite leaching experiments performed during this study. Ferroplasma JTC 3 required yeast extract as sole carbon source (chemo-heterotrophic) for growth via aerobic ferrous iron oxidation. Taking into account no carbon dioxide enrichment via aeration, chemo-autotrophic growth by means of ferrous iron oxidation was poor with carbon dioxide as sole carbon source. The anaerobic metabolism of Ferroplasma JTC 3 was utilized in assisting with solution potential control during the low potential chalcopyrite leaching work. The anaerobic metabolism enabled the reduction of ferric iron (decrease redox potential) in the presence of elemental sulphur and yeast extract. Elemental sulphur was shown to be a requirement for Ferroplasma JTC 3 assisted ferric iron reduction, which was not influenced by different ferrous/ferric iron based redox potentials. The third section covers the main focus of this study, which was the low potential leaching of chalcopyrite in combination with the metabolic capabilities of Ferroplasma JTC 3. The major challenge of low potential chalcopyrite leaching in an acidic environment is maintaining the solution potential below the critical upper limit (400 mV vs. Ag/AgCl) of the low potential window for prolonged periods of time. The reason is the slow chemical oxidation of ferrous iron in the presence of oxygen, which increases the leach solution potential above the critical upper limit before complete copper dissolution is obtained. The aim of this study was to maintain a low solution potential environment in a bioreactor via a programmable electronic gas control system, capable of creating an aerobic environment until the solution potential would reach the upper low potential limit (400 mV vs. Ag/AgCl) due to ferrous iron oxidation (chemically or via Ferroplasma JTC 3) and then switch to an anaerobic environment. During the anaerobic environment, the aim was to decrease the solution potential to a lower potential set point via chalcopyrite oxidation by ferric iron (ferric iron reduction) and by employing the ferric iron reduction metabolism of Ferroplasma JTC 3. With the particular aerobic/anaerobic solution potential control system, in conjunction with the metabolic capabilities of Ferroplasma JTC 3, the solution potential could be controlled within the critical low potential region, but no chalcopyrite leaching could be obtained during the anaerobic phase. The lack of chalcopyrite leaching during the anaerobic phase was due to inability of ferric iron to act as oxidant of chalcopyrite after the mineral was pre-leached in the preceding aerobic phase. The “oxidative acid leach” mechanism was identified as the dominant leach reaction that prevailed during the aerobic low potential stage in each of the aerobic/anaerobic control experiments conducted, in which oxygen acts as oxidant of chalcopyrite (electron acceptor) in the presence of protons (H+) (acidic environment), instead of ferric iron in an acid environment. The “boundary potential”, which is the maximum solution where no electron flow occurred to the ferrous/ferric couple from “pre-leached” chalcopyrite, was identified in the region of 450 mV (Ag/AgCl). Under the experimental conditions within this study, the leaching of chalcopyrite within the aerobic phase of the aerobic/anaerobic control experiments was superior to the Ferroplasma JTC 3 mediated high potential leaching, but complete copper dissolution could not be obtained with the combined aerobic and anaerobic system. Ferric iron precipitation as a function of pH was proposed as a tool for solution potential control, instead of controlling the potential by limiting oxygen to the leach system. In controlling the solution potential via pH, almost complete copper dissolution from chalcopyrite was obtained, while maintaining the solution potential below the critical upper limit of the low potential region. en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Bacterial leaching en
dc.subject Biotransformation (Metabolism) en
dc.subject Chalcopyrite en
dc.title The low potential bioleaching of chalcopyrite with ferroplasma JTC3 en
dc.type Thesis en


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