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Relationship between bioleaching performance, bacterial community structure and mineralogy in the bioleaching of a copper concentrate in stirred-tank reactors

Abstract : During the Bioshale European project, a technoeconomic study of the bioleaching of a copper concentrate originating from a black shale ore was carried out. This concentrate is a multi-mineral resource in which the copper sulphides are mainly chalcocite, covellite, bornite and chalcopyrite. The experiments undertaken to produce the techno-economic data were also an opportunity to carry out more fundamental research. The objective of this work was to combine the results of the bioleaching experiments, in terms of copper recovery, with the results of bacterial community monitoring and mineralogy residue analysis. Batch and continuous bioleaching tests were carried out with 10% solids, at 42 °C and with a pH between 1.2 and 1.6. Final copper recovery was higher in batch cultures than in continuous mode (>95% vs. 91%). Mineralogical analysis showed that the limiting factor for copper recovery was incomplete chalcopyrite dissolution in both cases. However, chalcopyrite was even less dissolved in continuous conditions. This was also related to a variation in bacterial community structure. The population in all tests was composed of Acidithiobacillus caldus, Leptospirillum ferriphilum and one or two species of Sulfobacillus (Sulfobacillus thermosulfidooxidans and sometimes Sulfobacillus benefaciens), but Sulfobacillus and more generally sulphur oxidizers were more represented in batch mode. It was proposed that due to their capacity to reduce inorganic compounds, sulphur oxidizers may be efficient in limiting chalcopyrite surface hindering. It may help to better dissolve this mineral and reach a better copper recovery.
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Pauline Spolaore, Catherine Joulian, Jérôme Gouin, Dominique Morin, Patrick d'Hugues. Relationship between bioleaching performance, bacterial community structure and mineralogy in the bioleaching of a copper concentrate in stirred-tank reactors. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Springer Verlag, 2011, 89 (2), pp.441-448. ⟨10.1007/s00253-010-2888-5⟩. ⟨hal-00531611⟩

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