Ocean manganese nodules: Biogenesis and bioleaching possibilities

Ehrlich, H. L.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Marine manganese nodules harbor a mixed population of manganese-oxidizing and -reducing bacteria, as well as bacteria that do not act on manganese. They also host phagotrophic protozoa. Out of several laboratory studies, one line of investigation indicates that some kinds of bacteria found on nodules can catalyze the oxidation of Mn2+ bound to Mn(IV) oxide at the surface of nodules at in situ temperature and pressure. In the absence of appropriate bacteria, the rate of oxidation of the surface-bound Mn2+ is significantly slower. How Fe(III) is incorporated is still unclear. Base metals such as Cu, Ni and Co, which are usually found in marine nodules in various quantities, may be incorporated through scavenging by Mn(IV) oxide. Laboratory evidence shows that some other bacteria on nodules can reduce the Mn(IV) oxide to Mn2+ in the presence of an appropriate source of reducing power in the form of organic carbon. The reduction of Mn(IV) oxide mobilizes manganese and trace metals such as Cu, Ni, and Co in the nodules. These bacteria reduce Mn(IV) whether oxygen is present or not. They could be harnessed in the bioleaching of nodules. The manganese(IV)-reducing bacteria and the bacteria that neither oxidize nor reduce manganese are thought to keep the organic matter in the nodule environment sufficiently low to favor bacterial manganese-oxidation, which in laboratory tests is inhibited by excess organic carbon. The preying by the protozoa on the different kinds of bacteria is thought to control the bacterial population on nodules and ensure continued growth of the manganese-oxidizing bacteria and the nodules. To eliminate interference from seawater salts in the bioleaching of Mn, Cu, Ni and Co, it may be more advantageous to use terrestrial Mn(IV)-reducing bacteria than the Mn(IV)-reducing bacteria resident on nodules. The terrestrial bacteria would allow bioleaching in fresh water. Unlike the marine bacteria, most terrestrial bacteria studied to date reduce Mn(IV) oxide only anaerobically. A general outline for an anaerobic bioleach process of marine nodules with freshwater bacteria is discussed.
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