, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 278-282

Role of cell attachment in leaching of chalcopyrite mineral by Thiobacillus ferrooxidans

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Experiments on the leaching of copper from chalcopyrite mineral by the bacterium Thiobacillus ferrooxidans show that, in the presence of adequate amounts of sulphide, iron-grown bacteria preferentially oxidise sulphur in the ore (through direct attachment) rather than ferrous sulphate in solution. At 20% pulp density, the leaching initially takes place by a predominantly direct mechanism. The cell density in the liquid phase increases, but the Fe2+ is not oxidised. However, in the later stages when less solid substrate is available and the cell density becomes very high, the bacteria start oxidising Fe2+ in the liquid phase, thus contributing to the indirect mechanism of leaching. Contrary to expectations, the rate of leaching increased with increasing particle size in spite of the decreasing specific surface area. This has been found to be due to increasing attachment efficiency with increase in particle size.