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Chemical and bacterial leaching of metals from a smelter slag in acid solutions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-53
Early online date2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


The purpose of this study was to assess the dissolution of Si, Fe, Cu and Zn from a smelter slag sample under acidic chemical and bacterial leaching conditions. The Cu-containing solid phases were Cu-sulfides (57% distribution), fayalite (18%) and metallic Cu (16%). Zn was mostly associated with fayalite, magnetite and Na-silicate phases (Σ94%). Two mixed cultures (HB1 and HB2) were enriched from samples taken from the slag lagoon site at the smelter location. Comparable results of metal dissolution were obtained with the two mixed cultures. The enrichment culture HB1 was characterized further by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of polymerase chain reaction amplified 16S rRNA genes. Based on the 16S rRNA gene sequences, culture HB1 contained at least Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans and Alicyclobacillus cycloheptanicus, with sequences of three DGGE bands matching distantly with Alicyclobacillus tolerans and Alicyclobacillus herbarium in the database. Alicyclobacillus spp. have not been previously associated with slag lagoons or slag bioleaching. Approximately 80% Cu and 25% Zn were dissolved from the slag (10% pulp) in shake flasks when S0 was provided for the bacteria to produce H2SO4. Bioleaching in stirred tanks was conducted at controlled pH values and was practiced at pH levels promoting metal dissolution and suppressing iron and silicate solubilization from fayalite and Na-silicate. Chemical leaching at pH 2.3-4.0 did not yield substantial dissolution of valuable metals.


  • Acidithiobacillus, Alicyclobacillus, Bacterial leaching, Bioleaching, Chemical leaching, Smelter slag

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland