Potential for the utilisation of micro-organisms in gold processing

F. Reith, S. L. Rogers, D. C. McPhail, J. Bruggers

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper presented at Conference (not in Proceedings)peer-review


Using iron- and sulfur-oxidising bacteria to catalyse the breakdown of sulfides that host the gold is an important biological method for the pretreatment of refractory gold ores. Following this biological treatment a combination of chemical and physical methods are used for leaching (such as the cyanide process) and concentration (such as carbon-in-pulp or electrowinning) of gold. Although these methods are well accepted by industry, they harbour limitations in the processing of low-grade refractory ores, and regulatory agency/public acceptance of cyanide use. Thus, it is beneficial to industry to develop environmentally friendly, cost-efficient leaching and concentration techniques that are based on micro-organisms. This may soon be possible by adapting the results of recent regolith geoscience research, which has shown that micro-organisms are capable of driving a biogeochemical cycle of gold dispersion, transport and reconcentration in the supergene environment. The indigenous microbiota in biologically active soil microcosms from a number of Australian sites are capable of solubilising up to 80 wt per cent of the gold contained in these materials during 50 days of incubation. Studies using molecular microbial techniques have shown that a metallophilic bacterium, Ralstonia metallidurans, is present in biofilms on gold grains from a number of Australian sites. R metallidurans is capable of actively accumulating gold from solution, suggesting that the bacterium may contribute to the formation of secondary gold grains and nuggets. Identifying the biochemical and physiological pathways that lead to the dispersion and accumulation of gold in regolith, and quantifying the reaction kinetics of these processes may thus lead to the development of industrial bio-processing capacities for gold-containing ores.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes
EventWorld Gold 2007 By the Co-Products and the Environment - Cairns, QLD, Australia
Duration: 22 Oct 200724 Oct 2007


ConferenceWorld Gold 2007 By the Co-Products and the Environment
CityCairns, QLD


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