Biobeneficiation of mineral raw materials

Groudev, S. N.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
A process for the combined chemico-biological removal of iron present as oxide minerals in different mineral raw materials (quartz sands, kaolins, clays, etc.) was developed. In the process, mineral raw materials are leached at about 90 °C with lixiviant containing microbially produced oxalic and hydrochloric acids. The leaching is carried out in mechanically stirred acid-resistant reactors for periods of from 1 to 6 hours, depending on the iron content and the forms of iron in the raw materials being leached. The iron contents of some sands treated by this method were lowered from levels that were in the range of 0.035% to 0.088% Fe2O3 to less than 0.012% Fe2O3, making them suitable for the preparation of high-quality glass. The iron contents of different kaolins were lowered from levels that were in the range of 0.65% to 1.49% Fe2O3 to levels in the range of 0.44% to 0.75% Fe2O3. As a result, the whiteness was increased from values of 55% to 87% to values of 86% to 92%. The iron content of clay was lowered from 6.25% Fe2O3 to 1.85% Fe2O3, and this increased the “fireproofness" of the clay from 1,670°C to 1,750°C. A similar process was used for the leaching of aluminum from aluminosilicates, mainly clays and kaolins. However, in this case, the microbial fermentation fluid containing citric acid was acidified by means of sulfuric or hydrochloric acid or by means of different mixtures of mineral acids. For enhancing aluminum solubilization, the aluminosilicates were heated before leaching at 600° to 650°C for 1 to 2 hours. Over 90% of the aluminum present in different clays and kaolins were leached within 3 to 6 hours. "Silicate " bacteria related to the species Bacillus circulans were used to leach silicon from low-grade bauxite ores containing aluminosilicates as impurities. The bacterial action was connected with the degradation of the mineral structures (by means of microbial metabolites such as organic acids and exopolysaccharides), as well as with the selective separation of the rich-in-aluminum fine fractions, which were retained by the mucilaginous capsules of the bacteria. The solid residues after treatment were characterized by higher values of alumina and silicon module (A1203: SiO2 ratio), and they were suitable for processing by means of the Bayer process for recovering aluminum. The bending strength and other ceramic properties of kaolins were improved by contact with well-developed cultures of "silicate" bacteria. The improvement was caused mainly by bacterial metabolites (exopolysaccharides) that acted as resins during drying.
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