Mine waters are widely regarded as environmental pollutants, but are also potential sources of valuable metals. Water draining the Maurliden mine (Sweden) is highly acidic (pH 2.3) and rich in zinc (∼460 mg L-1) and iron (∼400 mg L-1), and contains smaller concentrations (0.3-49 mg L-1) of other transition metals and arsenic. We have developed novel techniques that promote the concurrent amelioration of acidic waste waters and selective recovery of metals, and have used these systems to treat synthetic Maurliden mine water in the laboratory. The two major metals present were removed via controlled biomineralization: zinc as ZnS in a sulfidogenic bioreactor, and iron as schwertmannite by microbial iron oxidation and precipitation of ferric iron. A small proportion (∼11%) of the schwertmannite produced was used to remove arsenic as the initial step in the process, and other chalcophilic metals (copper, cadmium and cobalt) were removed (as sulfides) in the stage 1 metal sulfide precipitation reactor. Results from this work have demonstrated that modular biomineralization units can be effective at processing complex mine waters and generating metal products that may be recycled. The economic and environmental benefits of using an integrated biological approach for treating metal-rich mine waters is discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry