Degradation of metal cyanide complexes by microorganisms

Fedel-Moen, R. ; Kimber, R. W. L. ; Ragusa, S. R. ; Williams, B. D.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
The use o f cyanide to extract gold from ores is widespread. In the process of extracting gold, cyanide may form metal cyanide complexes with a variety of other metals present in the ore. This study was carried out to investigate the biodegradation of the Cu(I)-cyanide complex and tetracyanonickelate under varying pH and nutrient additions. Detailed studies using shake flask cultures and bioreactors showed that naturally occurring bacteria residing on gold-leach-pad ore uti┬Člized the Cu(I)-cyanide complex (CuCN) and tetracyano-nickelate, Na2(NiCN4), as carbon and/or nitrogen sources. Ammonium-nitrogen (NH4+-N) and/or cyanate (CNO-) accumulated in solution as the metal cyanide complexes were degraded. The accumulation of cyanate as a product is a concern due to its toxicity. Degradation rates were increased if a growth substrate (peptone, 0.1%) was added to the medium or if bioreactors were primed with peptone before addition of the metal-cyanide complex. Tetracyanonickelate was degraded at pH 8 without added peptone, but it was not degraded at pH 10. The addition of peptone was required for degradation of the Cu(I)-cyanide complex at pH 8 and pH 10. At pH 8, the addition of peptone resulted in the accumulation of cyanate, whereas, at pH 10, cyanate was not detected in the cultures. Biodegradation of metal-cyanide complexes was faster (approximately 1.5 to ten times faster) in bioreactors than in shake flask cultures. The addition of peptone was not required for degradation of metal-cyanide complexes in bioreactors. However, priming the bioreaetor with peptone resulted in higher metal-cyanide degradation rates over multiple cycles.
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