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dc.creatorRamcharan, Karishma.
dc.date.accessioned2010-08-24T07:14:16Z
dc.date.available2010-08-24T07:14:16Z
dc.date.created2008
dc.date.issued2008
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10413/541
dc.descriptionThesis (M.Sc.) - University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2008.en_US
dc.description.abstractMicrobial leaching plays a significant role in the natural weathering of silicate containing ores such as diamond-bearing kimberlite. Harnessing microbial leaching processes to pre-treat mined kimberlite ores has been proposed as a means of improving diamond recovery efficiencies. The biomineralization of kimberlite is rarely studied. Therefore, this study investigated the feasibility of exploiting both chemolithotrophic and heterotrophic leaching processes to accelerate the weathering of kimberlite. Preliminary investigations using mixed chemolithotrophic leaching cultures were performed on four finely ground kimberlite samples (<100μm) sourced from different mines in South Africa and Canada. Mixed chemolithotrophic cultures were grown in shake flasks containing kimberlite and inorganic basal media supplemented either with iron (Fe2+, 15g/l) or elemental sulfur (10g/l) as energy sources. Weathering due to dissolution was monitored by Inductive Coupled Plasma (ICP) analyses of Si, Fe, K, Mg and Ca in the leach solutions at known pH. Structural alterations of kimberlite after specified treatment times were analyzed by X-ray Powder Diffraction (XRD). The results of the preliminary investigation showed that weathering can be accelerated in the presence of microbial leaching agents but the degree of susceptibility and mineralogical transformation varied between different kimberlite types with different mineralogical characteristics. In general, the results showed that the kimberlite sample from Victor Mine was most prone to weathering while the sample from Gahcho Kue was the most resistant. It was therefore deduced that kimberlite with swelling clays as their major mineral component weathered relatively more easily when compared to kimberlite that consisted of serpentine and phlogopite as their major minerals. Gypsum precipitates were also distinguished indicating that a partial alteration in the kimberlite mineralogical structure occurred. Both energy sources positively influenced the dissolution process, with sulfur producing superior results. This was attributed to the generation of sulfuric acid which promotes cation dissolution and mineral weathering. Success in the preliminary investigations led to further experimental testing performed to determine the effect of particle size and varying energy source concentrations on the biotransformation of kimberlite. It was observed that although weathering rates of the larger kimberlite particles (>2mm<5mm) were lower than that of the finer particles, slight changes in their mineralogical structures represented by the XRD analyses were seen. Optimisation studies of energy source concentration concluded that although the highest concentration of elemental sulfur (20% w/w) and ferrous iron (35% w/w) produced the most pronounced changes for each energy source tested, the leaching efficiency at these concentrations were not drastically greater than the leaching efficiency of the lower concentrations, as expected. Following the success of batch culture shake flasks weathering tests, the effect of continuous chemolithotrophic cultures on the biotransformation of larger kimberlite particles (>5mm<6.7mm) was investigated. A continuous plug-flow bioleach column was used to model the behaviour of chemolithotrophic consortia in a dump- or heap leaching system. Two sequential columns were setup, in which the first consisted of kimberlite mixed with sulfur and the second purely kimberlite. Inorganic growth medium was pumped to the first column at a fixed dilution rate of 0.25h-1 and the leachate from the first column dripped into the second. After an 8 week investigation period, the ICP and XRD data showed that weathering did occur. However, the pH results showed that the leaching process is governed by the amount of acid produced by the growth-rate independent chemolithotrophic consortia. Data from pH analyses also showed that the leaching bacteria reached ‘steady state’ conditions from day 45 onwards. The pH also remained higher in the second column than in the first column highlighting the alkaline nature of the kimberlite ores and its ability to act as a buffering agent and resist weathering. This important factor, as well as further optimisation studies in process operating conditions and efficiency, needs to be considered when establishing heap-leaching technology for these kimberlite ores. In the preliminary heterotrophic investigation, Aspergillus niger was used to produce organic metabolites to enhance kimberlite mineralization. The results demonstrated that the organic acid metabolites generated caused partial solubilization of the kimberlite minerals. However, it was deduced that for more significant changes to be observed higher amounts of organic acids need to be produced and maintained. The results obtained in this study also showed that the type of kimberlite presents a different susceptibility to the dissolution process and the presence of the fungal cells may improve the leaching efficiency. The results in this study provided an optimistic base for the use of microbial leaching processes in accelerating the weathering of kimberlite. These findings may also serve to supply data to formulate recommendations for further and future column microbial leach tests as well as validation and simulation purposes.
dc.language.isoen_ZAen_US
dc.subjectMicrobial biotechnology.en_US
dc.subjectMinerals--Biotechnology.en_US
dc.subjectBacterial leaching.en_US
dc.subjectOres--Metallurgy.en_US
dc.subjectTheses--Microbiology.en_US
dc.titleMicrobial biotransformation of kimberlite ores.en_US
dc.typeThesisen_US


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