Document Type : Original Research Paper


1 Mining and Metallurgical Engineering Department, Mining Technologies Research Center (MTRC), Yazd University, Yazd, Iran

2 Mineral Processing Division, Mining Engineering Department, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

3 Biotechnology Division, Chemical Engineering Department, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran


Although bioleaching of chalcopyrite by thermophilic microorganisms enhances the rate of copper recovery, a high temperature accelerates iron precipitation as jarosite, which can bring many operational problems in the industrial processes. In this research work, the bioleaching of chalcopyrite concentrate by the thermophilic Acidianus brierleyi was studied, and the microbial growth, copper dissolution, iron oxidation, and jarosite precipitation were monitored in different initial pH (pHi) values. Bacterial growth was greatly affected by pHi. While the bacterial growth was delayed for 11 days with a pHi value of 0.8, this delay was reduced to nearly one day for a pHi value of 1.2. Two stages of copper recovery were observed during all the tests. A high pHi value caused a fast bacterial growth in the first stage and severe jarosite precipitation in the later days causing a sharp decline in the bacterial population and copper leaching rate. The copper recoveries after 11 days were 25%, 78%, 84%, 70%, 56%, and 39% for the pHi values of 0.8, 1.0, 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, and 1.7, respectively. Sulfur and jarosite were the main residues of the bioleaching tests. It was revealed that the drastic effect of jarosite precipitation on the microbial growth and copper recovery was mainly caused by the ferric iron depletion from solution rather than passivation of the chalcopyrite surface. A slow precipitation of crystalline jarosite did not cause a passive chalcopyrite surface. The mechanisms of chalcopyrite bioleaching were discussed.


[1]. Stott, M.B., Sutton, D.C., Watling, H.R. Franzmann, P.D. (2003). Comparative Leaching of Chalcopyrite by Selected Acidophilic Bacteria and Archaea. Geomicrobiol J. 20 (3): 215–230.
[2]. Vilcáez, J., Suto, K. and Inoue, C. (2008). Bioleaching of chalcopyrite with thermophiles. International Journal of Mineral Processing. 88 (1-2): 37-44.
[3]. Manafi, Z., Abdollahi, H. and Tuovinen, O.H. (2013). Shake flask and column bioleaching of a pyritic porphyry copper sulphide ore. International Journal of Mineral Processing. 119: 16-20.
[4]. Abdollahi, H., Shafaei, S.Z., Noaparast, M., Manafi, Z., Niemelä, S.I. and Tuovinen, O.H. (2014). Mesophilic and thermophilic bioleaching of copper from a chalcopyrite-containing molybdenite concentrate. International Journal of Mineral Processing. 128: 25-32.
[5]. Lotfalian, M., Ranjbar, M., Fazaelipoor, M.H., Schaffie, M. and Manafi, Z. (2015). Continuous bioleaching of chalcopyritic concentrate at high pulp density. Geomicrobiology Journal. 32 (1): 42-50.
[6]. Lotfalian, M., Schaffie, M., Darezereshki, E., Manafi, Z. and Ranjbar, M. (2012). Column bioleaching of low-grade chalcopyritic ore using moderate thermophile bacteria. Geomicrobiology Journal. 29 (8): 697-703.
[7]. Ahmadi, A., Schaffie, M., Manafi, Z. and Ranjbar, M. (2010). Electrochemical bioleaching of high grade chalcopyrite flotation concentrates in a stirred bioreactor. Hydrometallurgy. 104 (1): 99-105.
[8]. Panda, S., Akcil, A., Pradhan, N. and Deveci, H. (2015). Current scenario of chalcopyrite bioleaching: A review on the recent advances to its heap-leach technology. Bioresour Technol. 196: 694–706.
[9]. Konishi, Y., Asai, S., Tokushige, M. and Suzuki, T. (1999). Kinetics of the bioleaching of chalcopyrite concentrate by acidophilic thermophile Acidianus brierleyi. Biotechnology Progress. 15 (4): 681-688.
[10]. Castro, C., Urbieta, M.S., Cazón, J.P. and Donati, E.R. (2019). Metal biorecovery and bioremediation: whether or not thermophilic are better than mesophilic microorganisms. Bioresource technology.
[11]. Norris, P.R., Burton, N.P. and Clark, D.A. (2013). Mineral sulfide concentrate leaching in high temperature bioreactors. Miner Eng. 48:10–19.
[12]. Zhu, W., Xia, J., Yang, Y., Nie, Z., Peng, A. and Liu, H. (2013). Thermophilic archaeal community succession and function change associated with the leaching rate in bioleaching of chalcopyrite. Bioresour Technol. 133: 405–413.
[13]. Brierley, C.L. and Brierley, J.A. (1973). A chemoautotrophic and thermophilic microorganism isolated from an acid hot spring. Canadian Journal of microbiology. 19 (2): 183-188.
[14]. Zillig, W., Stetter, K.O., Wunderl, S., Schulz, W., Priess, H. and Scholz, I. (1980). The Sulfolobus-“Caldariella” group: taxonomy on the basis of the structure of DNA-dependent RNA polymerases. Archives of Microbiology. 125 (3): 259-269.
[15]. Segerer, A., Neuner, A., Kristjansson, J.K. and Stetter, K.O. (1986). Acidianus infernus gen. nov., sp. nov., and Acidianus brierleyi comb. nov.: facultatively aerobic, extremely acidophilic thermophilic sulfur-metabolizing archaebacteria. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 36 (4): 559-564.
[16]. Vilcáez, J., Suto, K. and Inoue, C. (2008). Response of thermophiles to the simultaneous addition of sulfur and ferric ion to enhance the bioleaching of chalcopyrite. Minerals Engineering. 21 (15): 1063-1074.
[17]. Sand, W., Gehrke, T., Jozsa, P.G. and Schippers, A. (2001). (Bio) chemistry of bacterial leaching—direct vs. indirect bioleaching. Hydrometallurgy. 59 (2-3): 159-175.
[18]. Liang, Y.T., Han, J.W., Ai, C.B. and Qin, W.Q. (2018). Adsorption and leaching behaviors of chalcopyrite by two extreme thermophilic archaea. Transactions of Nonferrous Metals Society of China. 28 (12): 2538-2544.
[19] Mahmoud, A., Cézac, P., Hoadley, A.F., Contamine, F. and d'Hugues, P. (2017). A review of sulfide minerals microbially assisted leaching in stirred tank reactors. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation. 119: 118-146.
[20]. Zhao, H., Zhang, Y., Zhang, X., Qian, L., Sun, M., Yang, Y. and Qiu, G. (2019). The dissolution and passivation mechanism of chalcopyrite in bioleaching: An overview. Minerals Engineering. 136: 140-154.
[21]. Esmailbagi, M. R., Schaffie, M., Kamyabi, A. and Ranjbar, M. (2018). Microbial assisted galvanic leaching of chalcopyrite concentrate in continuously stirred bioreactors. Hydrometallurgy. 180: 139-143.
[22]. Jafari, M., Abdollahi, H., Shafaei, S. Z., Gharabaghi, M., Jafari, H., Akcil, A. and Panda, S. (2019). Acidophilic bioleaching: a review on the process and effect of organic–inorganic reagents and materials on its efficiency. Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review. 40 (2): 87-107.
[23]. Karamanev, D.G., Nikolov, L.N. and Mamatarkova, V. (2002). Rapid simultaneous quantitative determination of ferric and ferrous ions in drainage waters and similar solutions. Miner Eng. 15 (5): 341–346.
[24]. Johnson, D.B., Kanao, T. and Hedrich, S. (2012). Redox Transformations of Iron at Extremely Low pH: Fundamental and Applied Aspects. Front Microbiol. 3: 96.
[25]. Bonnefoy, V., Holmes, D.S. (2012). Genomic insights into microbial iron oxidation and iron uptake strategies in extremely acidic environments. Environ Microbiol. 14 (7): 1597–1611.
[26]. Bishop, J.L. and Murad, E. (2005). The visible and infrared spectral properties of jarosite and alunite. Am Mineral. 90 (7): 1100-1107.
[27]. Klauber, C. (2008). A critical review of the surface chemistry of acidic ferric sulphate dissolution of chalcopyrite with regards to hindered dissolution. Int J Miner Process. 86: 1–17
[28]. Vargas, T., Davis-Belmar, C.S. and Cárcamo, C. (2014). Biological and chemical control in copper bioleaching processes: When inoculation would be of any benefit? Hydrometallurgy. 150: 290–298.
[29]. Zhu, W., Xia, J., Yang, Y., Nie, Z., Zheng, L. and Ma, C. (2011). Sulfur oxidation activities of pure and mixed thermophiles and sulfur speciation in bioleaching of chalcopyrite. Bioresour Technol. 102 (4): 3877–3882.
[30]. Valdebenito-Rolack, E., Ruiz-Tagle, N., Abarzúa, L., Aroca, G. and Urrutia, H. (2017). Characterization of a hyperthermophilic sulphur-oxidizing biofilm produced by archaea isolated from a hot spring. Electron J Biotechnol. 25: 58–63.