Microbiological leaching of a chalcopyrite concentrate by Thiobacillus ferrooxidans

Biotechnology and Bioengineering
H Sakaguchi, M Silver


The microbiological leaching of a chalcopyrite concentrate has been investigated using a pure strain of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans. The optimum leaching conditions regarding pH, temperature, and pulp density were found to be 2.3, 35 degrees C, and 22% respectively. The energy of activation was calculated to be 16.7 kcal/mol. During these experiments the maximum rate of copper dissolution was about 215 mg/liters/hr and the final copper concentration was as high as 55 g/liter. This latter value is in the range of copper concentrations which may be used for direct electrorecovery of copper. Jarosite formation was observed during the leaching of the chalcopyrite concentrate. When the leach residue was reground to expose new substrate surface, subsequent leaching resulted in copper extractions up to about 80%. On the basis of this experimental work, a flow sheet has been proposed for commercial scale biohydrometallurgical treatment of high-grade chalcopyrite materials.


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