Microbiological leaching of uranium ores

Tuovinen, O. H. ; Bhatti, T. M.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Microbiological leaching has been used as an alternative approach to conventional hydrometallurgical methods of uranium extraction. In the microbiological leaching process, iron-oxidizing bacteria oxidize pyritic phases to ferric iron and sulfuric acid, and uranium is solubilized from the ore due to sulfuric acid attack. If uranium in the ore material is in the reduced, tetravalent form (UIV), a red ox reaction is involved whereby uranium is oxidized to the hexavalent form (UvI) upon dissolution. In acid-leaching systems, the primary oxidant is ferric iron, which is reduced to ferrous iron by its chemical reaction with UIV. The ferrous iron thus formed is reoxidized to ferric iron by iron-oxidizing bacteria such as Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans. Nutritional requirements and responses to environmental extremes of acidophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria are appraised. The S-entity in Fe-sulfides is oxidized to sulfate by bacteria similar to Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and Thiobacillus thiooxidans. Pyrite and marcasite oxidation is a sulfuric acid forming reaction. Heap, dump and in situ leach techniques are feasible as bacterial leaching systems.
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