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Enhancing the activity of iron-oxidising bacteria: A case study with process liquors from heap bioleaching of a complex sulphide ore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-172
Early online date30 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


In the present study, six process liquors (PL1 - PL6) originating from heap bioleaching of a complex sulphide ore were examined to reveal factors limiting microbial activity in the bioheaps. PL4 had the lowest iron oxidation activity even though its indigenous iron-oxidising community was diverse (Acidithiobacillus, Leptospirillum, Acidiferrobacter, and Sulfobacillus species). Shake flask experiments at 27 °C revealed that ferrous iron (Fe2 +) and aluminium (Al3 +) concentrations up to 16 and 12 g/L, respectively, were not inhibitory for the iron-oxidising microorganisms in PL4. In addition, Al3 + concentrations of ≤ 6 g/L were shown to enhance iron oxidation rates. High correlation between increased concentrations of cadmium (Cd), sulphate (SO42 −), and vanadium (V) and decreased iron oxidation rates was detected when comparing process liquors 1–6. Moreover, possible nutrient limitation in PL4 was delineated by selectively supplementing it with macro- and micronutrients. Supplementation of 320 mg/L of nitrogen (as NH4+) to PL4 significantly increased iron oxidation rates from 20 mg/L/h (no nutrient supplementation) to 160 mg/L/h and would likely also enhance the heap bioleaching process. Additionally, microorganisms growing in high inhibitory ion concentrations (e.g. Cd2 +) were shown to be more sensitive to nitrogen deficiency than microorganisms growing in more dilute liquors.


  • Iron-oxidising bacteria, Heap bioleaching, Bacterial community composition, Inhibition, Nutrient limitation, Aluminium toxicity

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland