Geomicrobiology of Sulfidic Mine Dumps: A Short Review
The geomicrobiology of sulfidic mine dumps is reviewed. More than 30 microbiological studies of sulfidic mine dumps have been published. Mainly culturing approaches such as most probable number (MPN) or agar plates were used to study the microbial communities. More recently, molecular biological techniques such as FISH, CARD-FISH, Q-PCR, T-RFLP, DGGE, or cloning have been applied to quantify microorganisms and to investigate the microbial diversity. Aerobic Fe(II)- and sulfur compound oxidizing microorganisms oxidize pyrite, pyrrhotite and other metal sulfides and play an important role in the formation of acid mine drainage (AMD). Anaerobic microorganisms such as Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms dissolve Fe(III)(hydr)oxides and may thereby release adsorbed or precipitated metals. Sulfate-reducing microorganisms precipitate and immobilize metals. In addition to the microbial communities several biogeochemical processes have been analyzed in mine dumps. Pyrite or pyrrhotite oxidation rates have been measured by different techniques: Column experiments, humidity cells, microcalorimetry, or oxygen consumption measurements. Analyses of stable isotopes of iron, oxygen and sulfur have yielded valuable information on biogeochemical reactions. The microbiology and the biogeochemical processes in sulfidic mine dumps have to be understood for control and prevention of AMD generation and to provide different possibilities for remediation concepts. Today, remediation measures, e.g. under water storage of the waste or covering of the dumps, focus on the inhibition of pyrite oxidation to keep the toxic compounds inside the mine waste dumps. As an alternative to the inhibition of pyrite oxidation, metals which also have economic value could be extracted from mine dumps by the application of different metal extraction technologies including bioleaching.
Edgardo R. Donati, Marisa R. Viera, Eduardo L. Tavani, María A. Giaveno, Teresa L. Lavalle, Patricia A. Chiacchiarini
A. Schippers and D. Kock, "Geomicrobiology of Sulfidic Mine Dumps: A Short Review", Advanced Materials Research, Vols. 71-73, pp. 37-41, 2009