Optimization of Microbial Leaching of Base Metals from a South African Sulfidic Nickel Ore Concentrate by Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans

S. K. Behera, M. Manjaiah, S. Sekar, S. K. Panda, V. Mavumengwana, A. F. Mulaba-Bafubiandi

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X-ray diffraction analysis revealed that pentlandite and chalcopyrite were the prominent mineral phases in a South African sulfidic nickel ore concentrate that hosted nickel and copper. Cobalt was found to be closely associated with the nickel-bearing pentlandite phase of the ore sample. Microbial batch leaching experiments designed according to a central composite design model were run for 15 days in a shaking incubator (150 rpm) at a constant temperature (30°C) with variations in experimental parameters like ore pulp density, particle size, bacterial inoculum, pH of the culture medium, and residence time. Quadratic mathematical models were developed to predict the rate of metal extractions. The suitability of the model of the microbial leaching process was confirmed from normal probability curves. An analysis of variance indicated that the residence time, pulp density of the ore, and particle size were the most significant factors. Bacterial inoculum size hardly showed any effect on the total metal extractions. Maximum nickel (82%), cobalt (76%) and copper (25.6%) extractions were achieved under optimum conditions, operated for 15 days at pulp density of 2% and particle size of −75 µm at pH 1.5.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-459
Number of pages13
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 03-07-2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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