Bioleaching and bioprecipitation of nickel and iron from laterites

K. A.K. Alibhai, A. W.L. Dudeney, D. J. Leak, S. Agatzini, P. Tzeferis

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Leaching of silicate ores, particularly nickel laterites, with the aid of heterotrophic organisms has been briefly reviewed. Samples of laterite ores from Greece were characterised mineralogically and a number of microorganisms isolated from them. One of these organisms (code FI) was successfully acclimatized to 6400 ppm nickel. Samples of the high-grade Greek Kastoria nickel laterite were leached with sulphuric acid and a number of organic acids. Sulphuric and citric acids extracted over 60 and 40% of the contained nickel, respectively, but the other acids employed were less efficient leachants. Oxalic acid precipitated nickel oxalate. Roughly the same extraction of iron was observed. The main leaching parameter was confirmed to be hydrogen ion concentration, although complexation with organic anions was a contributor. Organism FI (a strain of Penicillium) was used in comparison with organisms from various culture collections to bioleach nickel from samples of the low-grade Greek Litharakia nickel laterite. The organisms were cultivated in a mixture of a sugar-based nutrient mineral medium and finely ground ore. Several penicillia and aspergilli leached 55-60% of the contained nickel and cobalt, and 25-35% of the iron when sucrose was the carbon source, but FI was not efficient. However, in molasses medium, Fl extracted nearly 40% of the nickel. Biosorption and bioprecipitation reactions were observed. The mechanism of bioleaching or in situ leaching is discussed in terms of close physical and chemical association between the fungal hyphae and mineral phases in the ore. This accounted for the low overall hydrogen ion concentration observed during bioleaching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-95
Number of pages9
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1993


  • Bioacids
  • Heterotrophic fungi
  • In situ leaching
  • Nickel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


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