The effect of nutrient supplementation on growth and leaching performance of bioleaching bacteria

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Journal Title

Advanced Materials Research

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Trans Tech Publications


University of Cape Town

Heap bioleaching operations are often faced with extended and unpredictable lag periods after inoculation, prior to the establishment of a stable oxidising environment, during which the heap is fully colonised or the inoculum overcomes the sub-optimal conditions resulting from acid agglomeration. Supplementation of laboratory scale (4kg ore) leach columns with soluble nitrogen, particularly as yeast extract, significantly reduced the lag time and promoted bacterial growth, resulting in a 50-95% increase in copper recovery post-inoculation. The effect of yeast extract addition to Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans in controlled oxidation tests was investigated. Initial exposure of a stock culture to yeast extract resulted in a transient, dose dependent inhibition at concentrations of 0.5 g.l-1 and below. At 1.25 g.l-1 inhibition was complete over the time scale of the experiment. The inhibition phase was characterised by observable changes in cell morphology and ultrastructure. Despite the initial inhibition, the biomass yield at the end of the experiments was equivalent, or higher, in the presence of yeast extract. Cultures were adapted to growth on yeast extract as the sole nitrogen source and adapted cultures showed the highest rates of iron oxidation and cell growth, in the presence of 0.5 and 1 g.l-1 of yeast extract.